Car donation programs and services can vary from state to state, but most have pickup services nationwide.
What most people don’t realize, however, is that even some otherwise well-meaning car donation charities are not operating legally. Meaning that they have failed to register with the state that they are operating in.
…Usually this comes down to merely neglecting to pay an annual fee to the State Attorney General’s Office – a fee that often varies with the amount of money the charity typically gets each year.
So you should use ‘due diligence’ in checking out any charity before donating your car or other vehicle to them. Here at GoodwillCarDonation.org we make this really easy for you:
Simply click on your car donation state from the right-hand menu and follow the simple step-by-step instructions.
If the charity is not appropriately registered – or more likely – is a fraudulently operating charity – you will not be able to claim a tax deduction on your vehicle donation. Not to mention your donation will not provide any benefit to someone or some family less fortunate than yourself. (More on how to avoid car donation scams is below.)
Is the Car Donation Charity Registered With the IRS?
IRS Publication 78 – Is a list of charities eligible for you to be able to claim a deduction.
The IRS makes the rules about car donation tax deductions. Here is IRS Publication 4302, A Charity’s Guide to Vehicle Donation. In it, the IRS outlines the types of vehicle donation programs and their effect on tax-exempt status, taxable income, and deductible contributions.
An IRS companion guide – IRS Publication 4303, A Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donation – provides guidelines for people who donate their used vehicles to charities.
State Law Requirements About the Vehicle Title
In general, state charity officials recommend that the donor take care of transferring the title of the donated vehicle (in order to release liability of the vehicle). This usually involves simply filling out a form with the local DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles) which states the vehicle has been donated to a charity.
Also, the donor should remove the license plates before transferring the vehicle to the charity. (At the time of this article, however, two states – California and Minnesota do things different: California DMV requires you to leave the plates on the donated vehicle, while Minnesota makes it optional.)
Assistance Through State Officials
Many of the state charity officials will provide useful information about charities and fundraisers on local state websites, including brochures and publications.
A listing of each state’s official charity regulations at each state’s Attorney General Office is available at:
The National Association of State Charity Officials
Beware of Car Donation Scams!
Many car donation scammers are out there – in EVERY state. They may seem legit on the surface – often professional-sounding with supposedly good credentials, maybe a nice-looking website. But if they are indeed legit, they will be registered with one or more of the following organizations:
1. The State’s Attorney General’s Office. Most States require that any organization that solicits donations must register with the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
But not every state has this requirement. So…
If the Attorney General’s Office of a particular state does not require car donation charities to register with them,
…or if the car donation charity you are checking into is not registered with the Attorney General’s Office – even though it is supposed to be for that state…
…check to see if it is listed in good standing with one or more of the following ‘charity watchdog’ organizations.
Charity Watchdog Organizations
2. Charity Navigator – http://www.charitynavigator.org/
3. Better Business Bureau Charities – http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/
4. GuideStar Charity Check – http://www2.guidestar.org/
5. Charity Watch – http://www.charitywatch.org/
…If the car donation charity is not registered or listed in good standing with any of the above organizations, it is likely a fraudulent operation. Regardless, at this point you should report them to the State’s Attorney General’s Office as soon as possible. Let them figure it out from there.
More tips on avoiding car donation scams can be found here.