Tax-Deductible Value of Donated Eyeglasses

Donating your eyeglasses can help someone else see -- and reduce your tax burden.
Image Credit: BartekSzewczyk/iStock/Getty Images

One of the ways the government encourages charitable giving is with tax deductions. When you give cash, it's easy to calculate the value. When you give non-cash items, such as eyeglasses, it can be harder to value your donation. As long as you keep the required documentation, you can still save on your taxes.

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Receiving Qualified Organizations

You're allowed to claim a deduction for donating eyeglass (or any other items) only if you give them to a qualified organization. These include public charities, nonprofit schools and hospitals, government groups and religious organizations, and you can check these on the IRS' list. If you give your eyeglasses directly to a person, even if the recipient is in great need, you can't claim any tax benefits for your generosity.

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Calculating Fair Value

When you donate eyeglasses to a qualified organization, you can deduct the fair market value on your taxes. The IRS defines the fair market value as the price a willing buyer would pay a willing seller, but does not publish a list of the values for various items. Used items tend to be worth substantially less than the price when new. Sometimes, tax preparers or charitable organizations will provide a list of commonly donated items with a price range for each that can inform your pricing.

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Getting a Receipt

When you donate glasses, you don't need a receipt if your donation is worth less than ​$250​ and it's impractical to get one, such as if you leave the eyeglasses at an unattended drop box. If you don't get a receipt, you need to keep a record for yourself of what you gave, when you gave it and which organization received it in case you are audited.

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Furthermore, if you have more than ​$500​ in non-cash charitable donations, you'll want to keep receipts for all those donations. You'll need to fill out Form 8283 from the IRS and attach it to your return. Simply listing these items on your 1040 is insufficient for the IRS once the values exceed that $500 threshold.

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Consider Also​: An Overview of Itemized Deductions: Definition, How to Claim & Limitations

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Calculating Tax Savings

The value of your donated eyeglasses reduces your taxable income for the year, but only if you itemize your deductions. If you don't itemize, you won't save anything on your taxes. It's financially worthwhile to itemize only if the total of your deductions is more than the standard deduction you are entitled to.

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If you do itemize, deducting donated glasses could save you a little bit on your taxes. You can calculate your tax savings by multiplying your marginal tax rate – the rate you pay on your last dollar of income – by the amount you deduct for the value of your eyeglasses. For example, say you claim a $5 deduction for your eyeglasses and you fall in the 10 percent tax bracket, that saves you 50 cents on your taxes.

While an eyeglass tax write off may save you some money if you itemize, it won't be a particularly significant amount of money. However, with enough combined donations, it could all add up to enough to itemize. Just remember to keep receipts from your donations in the case that you itemize on your taxes and even if you don't, receipts are good to have for proof if an audit occurs.

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Consider Also​: Tax Audits: What are They, Why Are You Audited & IRS Audit Outcomes

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