(similar but NOT identical to How can I calculate the value of donated clothing for tax purposes? )

My wife donated several boxes full of old clothing to Goodwill, and calculated the total thrift shop value as $710.00.

I entered that into TurboTax and it asked me for a cost basis. I checked online + found Form 8283 (for total donations of >$500) and sure enough, it asks for date acquired and cost basis.

What can I do to report this, when we have no idea what the total cost basis was, only that it was almost certainly more than $1500 and more than 1 year ago?

  • If you use a program such as Quicken, you might have records of credit card payments from a year or two back that could be used as a rough guide in figuring the purchase, especially if most of your family's clothing is bought at two or three stores or on-line clothing merchants. Mar 5, 2012 at 2:43

3 Answers 3


For the date you are permitted to use "various".

For the cost basis, you need to make an estimate. For clothing and household goods I usually assume that the donated value is 30 - 50% of the cost basis.

  • how accurate does this estimate have to be? She donated 147 items of clothing.
    – Jason S
    Mar 5, 2012 at 0:12
  • I don't know if there is any indication in the tax law of how accurate you need to be. Personally, I just use a rough estimate based on a percentage
    – Alex B
    Mar 5, 2012 at 0:26
  • @JasonS How accurate you need to be depends on how likely you are to be audited. Higher accuracy is always better when being audited.
    – user4127
    Mar 6, 2012 at 14:01

Based on your comment on Alex's answer that you donated 147 items, it seems that you have good records for what was donated. Just estimate the purchase value. If pants cost $40 today, they probably were $40 a few years ago. This shouldn't take you more then 10 or 15 minutes to do if you put everything in a spreadsheet. Then keep the spreadsheet with your tax records.

The IRS is interested in determining if the value went up for the donated item. In the case of clothes, they definitely went down in value.

In future years split the donated clothing across several charities, that way each is under $500.

  • 1
    Is it true that you cannot claim any donations less than $500 on your charitable deductions? For example, if donating $400 worth of clothes is all I did, would I be able to claim 50% of the cost as a tax deduction? Mar 5, 2012 at 20:21
  • "Is it true that you cannot claim any donations less than $500 on your charitable deductions?" What makes you think that? No, of course not -- you can claim donations under that amount.
    – Jason S
    Mar 6, 2012 at 14:22

The Form 8283 instructions say:

Column (f). Do not complete this column for property held at least 12 months or publicly traded securities. Keep records on cost or other basis.

If this was old clothing, you don't need to fill in that field, despite what TurboTax says. Now it's possible this may red flag you, but the instructions seem clear to me that you cannot enter a value here.

  • "A purchase price entry is required" -TurboTax Deluxe 2017
    – mikato
    Apr 2, 2018 at 0:28

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