Last year I calculated my taxes using Turbo-Taxes online edition. When asked to enter in my Charitable donations (I did itemize) there was no place for me to enter the charities ID number, and I didn't see any change to the amount of taxes I owe. Am I at a salary level where giving that much to charity is just about pointless? If that is not the case, How can I make sure that this year I pay the appropriate amount in taxes?


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    You say you itemized. Did you have any taxable income at all? If you did, the lowest marginal rate is 10% and a $3000 deduction means a tax difference of $300. You should have seen some difference. Tough to troubleshoot exactly why you didn't. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Dec 27 '12 at 23:08
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    @JoeTaxpayer TurboTax asks the user to give information regarding itemized deductions, but does not put the information on Schedule A and use the total of Itemized Deductions instead of the Standard Deduction unless the former exceeds the latter. Thus, simply entering itemized deductions data into TurboTax does not necessarily mean that the taxpayer's return used itemized deductions: TurboTax will use the Standard Deduction when it is more beneficial to do so -- unless the taxpayer insists on using Itemized Deductions and paying more taxes than strictly necessary. – Dilip Sarwate Dec 27 '12 at 23:20
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    @DilipSarwate ok sir you set me straight, I read "I did itemize" as meaning "I exceeded standard deduction and filed schedule A". You are suggesting this may simply not be the case. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Dec 27 '12 at 23:42
  • And he is right. I did not infact exceed standard deduction. My question is why not? Giving 3000 in one year to a charity is not much of a tax help I wager. I still give to charities however. – SoftwareSavant Dec 28 '12 at 12:55
  • "Myquestion is why not?" The standard deduction is set by law, and so only Congress can answer the question as to why it is set to its current value. As to why your itemized deductions did not exceed the standard deduction, that is because you did not have enough of them :-) For most people, home mortgage interest, real estate taxes on the home, and state income taxes are what helps push their itemized deduction total towards exceeding the standard deduction, but owning one's home is a personal lifestyle choice that some, especially singles, may prefer not to make at that stage of their lives. – Dilip Sarwate Dec 28 '12 at 19:41

Giving to charity, regardless of whether you get a charitable deduction, should not be viewed as a pointless exercise regardless of salary level. Give to a charity if you wish to support its mission (feed the poor, heal the sick, protect the environment, etc); don't if you do not.

Turning to your point, you get a specific deduction for a charitable contribution if you itemize your deductions on your Federal tax return. There can be some limitations on this for extraordinarily generous philanthropists but this does not seem relevant here. You are also entitled to not itemize your deductions but simply claim the Standard Deduction for your filing status (Single) if you choose to do so. TurboTax is set up to compare the Standard Deduction with the total of itemized deductions that you have entered into TurboTax, and use the larger of the two numbers automatically as your Deduction (because doing so reduces your overall tax due), but it does provide you with the opportunity to refuse to use the Standard Deduction and instead use the sum-total of your itemized deductions even though this will cause you to pay more income tax. If you used TurboTax's step-by-step entry of data and answering of questions methodology, it probably told you that it was using the Standard Deduction because your itemized deductions totaled something smaller, and asking you to specifically choose the "Use Itemized Deductions even though they are less than the Standard Deductions" if you wished to do so.

Check your Federal tax return from last year. If you filed Schedule A with your 2011 return, you probably got to deduct your charitable contributions explicitly. If you didn't file Schedule A, you used the Standard Deduction and so did get to deduct more than what you could have deducted as itemized deductions (including any charitable contributions you made last year) but your charitable contributions have not been shown explicitly as having been deducted on your tax return. This year is likely to be the same unless you bought a house/condo and are making mortgage payments, paid lots of state income tax with your PA income tax return in April 2012, etc., all of which activities lead to increased Itemized Deductions and improve your chances of having the sum total exceed the Standard Deduction.

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