In order for charitable contributions to be deductible, the contribution must be made to qualified charitable organizations.
Ask your potential charity about its tax-exempt status.
You can also go to IRS.gov in the "Exempt Organizations Select Check", an online search tool to check on charities federal status and whether or not the charity has had its exempt status revoked.
Please note that charitable contributions are only deductible if you itemize.
TAX TIP - If you plan to make a large contribution at the end of the year, but it wouldn't be enough to let you itemize deductions, make it in January of the following year where it might make a difference.
Also note that charitable contributions are only deductible in the year paid, not the year pledged.
Cash contributions (cash, check or credit card) and the fair market value of most property you donate is deductible.
If you receive something in return for your contribution such as merchandise, sporting tickets, etc., only the amount donated that exceeds the fair market value of what you received can be deducted.
You must have records proving up your donation if you get audited.
Any contribution of $250 or more must have written confirmation from the charity that includes charity name, date and amount.
If you donate non-cash items valued at $500 or more you must file form 8283 with your tax return.
If you donate non-cash property worth more than $5,000 you must obtain a property appraisal and attach it to your return along with form 8283.