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Does It Make Financial Sense To Donate a Car to a Kidney Kars?

    Thursday, September 29th, 2016


It’s easy to donate a car to charity if all you want to do is get rid of it. Simply call a charity that accepts old vehicles, and it will tow your heap away.

If you want to maximize the benefits for both the charity and yourself, however, it’s more complicated. Until 2005, it was easy for taxpayers to deduct the entire “fair market value” of a donated vehicle from their taxable income, reducing the taxes they’d have to pay to the Internal Revenue Service. (The IRS defines fair market value as “the price a willing buyer would pay and a willing seller would accept for the vehicle, when neither party is compelled to buy or sell and both parties have reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.”)

Allowing taxpayers to deduct the full fair market value for all those donated vehicles cost the IRS a lot of dollars, however, so the agency tightened the rules. Today, you can only deduct a vehicle’s fair market value under very specific conditions. We’re going to walk you through those conditions, with the usual proviso that you should discuss these issues with your tax preparer before you act. Also note that if your state or locality also levies income taxes, other rules may also apply.

You Must Itemize Your Return
If you want to claim fair market value for your car donation to reduce your federal income taxes, you must itemize deductions, says Twila D. Midwood, an enrolled agent based in Rockledge, Florida. An enrolled agent is a tax expert who can represent clients before the IRS.

If you’ve always filed 1040EZ tax returns and you plan to keep filing them, you won’t be able to deduct any amount for the car donation. You can file a regular 1040 tax form and itemize, even if the donated auto is your only deduction. That’s usually not the best choice, however, unless you like paying a lot more taxes to the IRS than you must.

“For tax purposes, because a donation is a deduction from your income, the tax benefit relates to your tax bracket,” Midwood says. “It’s not a dollar-for-dollar item.”

Here’s the math: Suppose you are in the 28 percent tax bracket. Your donated car’s value, and thus the deduction, is $1,000. “The $1,000 deduction will save you $280,” Midwood says. If you’re in the 15 percent tax bracket and you donate a car worth $1,000, it will only reduce your taxes by $150.

If instead you take the standard deduction, which in 2012 was $5,950 for a single individual or $11,900 for a married couple filing together, you save thousands of dollars over filing an itemized return only for the purposes of detailing your car donation.

The only way that donating a car nets you any tax benefit is if you have many deductions, and if their total sum, including the car, exceeds your standard deduction.

The Charity Must Qualify
Your city councilman’s campaign organization and your hobby club may be nonprofit organizations, but donating a car to them won’t give you any tax benefits. Only “qualified” charities can provide those for you. A qualified charity is one that has been approved by the IRS as an “exempt-status” or 501(c)(3) organization, Midwood says. Most organizations will state in their advertising or receipts that they’re a 501(c)(3) if indeed they are one, she says. “If you’re not sure, ask.”

Religious organizations are a special case. They do count as qualified organizations, but they aren’t required to file for 501(c)(3) status.

To help you determine whether a charity is qualified, the easiest thing to do is visit the IRS’s exempt organizations site.

You also can call an IRS toll-free number: (877) 829-5500. If you do this, you’ll have to listen to some recorded information about tax forms that probably don’t apply to you. You’ll then be given the option to “Press 2” to talk to a customer service rep about exempt organizations. Note that the waits can be quite long: up to 30 minutes.

You can always donate as much as you want to charities, but the IRS limits how much you can claim on your tax return. “Charitable donations can’t exceed 50 percent of your gross income,” Midwood says.

How To Deduct Fair Market Value
These are the four IRS rules under which you can get the maximum deduction (the fair market value) of a donated car:

1. When a charity auctions your car for $500 or less, you can claim either the fair market value or $500, whichever is less.

2. When the charity intends to make a “significant intervening use of the vehicle.” This means the charity will use the car in its work, such as delivering meals to needy people.

3. When the charity intends to make a “material improvement” to the vehicle, which is “anything that increases the car’s value and prolongs its life,” Midwood says. “It can’t be a minor repair or maintenance; it must be something like fixing the engine or systems that run the car,” she says.

4. When the charity gives or sells the vehicle to a needy individual at a price significantly below fair market value, and the gift or sale is part of the charity’s mission of helping the needy who need transportation.

How To Determine Fair Market Value
To recap, the IRS defines fair market value as the price a willing buyer would pay and a willing seller would accept for the vehicle, when neither party is compelled to buy or sell and both parties have reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts. Neither the buyer nor the seller can be an auto dealer. Both must be private parties. makes it easy to determine your vehicle’s fair market value. And, as Midwood says, your assessment has to be “an apples-to-apples comparison.”

IRS Publication 4303 explains this in more detail: “If you use a vehicle pricing guide to determine fair market value, be sure that the sales price listed is for a vehicle that is the same make, model and year, sold in the same condition, and with the same or substantially similar options or accessories as your vehicle.”

Here’s an example: Let’s say your car is a 2003 Honda Accord DX sedan (the lowest trim level). It has 200,000 miles and it’s in “average” condition. Edmunds estimates it would be worth $1,862 in a private-party sale in Southern California. You can’t instead claim the $5,318 private-party value of a Honda Accord EX sedan (a much higher trim level) with 100,000 miles in “clean condition” (a condition grade that’s one step up from “average”).

Getting Fair Market Value Is Rare
It’s not realistic to expect that your car will meet one of the most stringent fair market value requirements. Take it from 1-800-Charity Cars, which says it is the largest car donation charity in the United States. It picks up donated vehicles from across the country and gives as many of the cars as possible to people who need transportation. According to the charity, few donated cars are suitable to give to the people it serves.

“If 5 percent go to our clients, I’m thrilled,” says CEO Brian Menzies. “Although we take any car, about one-third go straight to salvage, i.e., junk.” The rest are auctioned and the proceeds go to the charity of the donor’s choice, he says.

The point that Menzies is making is this: Unless your car is in good or excellent condition, it will most likely be sold at auction or to an auto salvage yard. In that case, your deduction is based on the car’s selling price, not your fair market value estimate.

Note that this price is not something you’ll know when you donate the vehicle. “An organization has up to three years to sell the vehicle,” Midwood says. “If they sell the vehicle within three years, they must notify the IRS and the donor.”

If the April tax deadline is approaching and the charity still hasn’t sent you a notification of your vehicle’s sale, such as an acknowledgement, receipt or form 1098-C, you have two options.

Paperwork Is Important
According to IRS Publication 526, the first option is to file Form 4868 to request an automatic six-month extension of time to submit your return. Your second option is to file the return on time without claiming the deduction for the qualified vehicle. When the charity finally sends your notification, you can file an amended return using form 1040X to claim the deduction. You’ll have to attach a copy of the notification to your 1040X.

Getting tax benefits for a donated car requires a lot of documentation, whether the car is junked, sold at auction or given to a charity’s client. IRS Publication 4303 has all the details. One tip: Keep all the papers or electronic files. You’ll need them at tax time.

Another Approach to Car “Donation”
Besides giving your car directly to a charity, there is another way your vehicle can help a charity and also maximize your tax benefits: You can sell the vehicle yourself and donate the proceeds.

“If the qualified organization is going to sell the vehicle in order to receive cash, then it would make sense for an individual to sell the vehicle to a private party to maximize the amount of cash proceeds,” Midwood says.

“Privately selling the vehicle might generate larger cash proceeds than if the organization were to sell the vehicle, she says. “The donor would then make a cash contribution to the organization.”

Selling any car can be a hassle and selling one that’s on its last legs poses challenges of its own. How you proceed depends on your goal. Are you focused on getting rid of a junker with minimum effort and you’d look at the tax deduction as a nice bonus? Then donating your car makes good sense.

If your goal is to maximize your tax deduction, carefully review the steps here and then make your decision. Whatever you decide to do, parting with your old car could help a nonprofit carry out its mission. And it also might make room in your garage for a new car.

Woman gets kidney in a 68-person kidney donation chain

    Wednesday, May 13th, 2015


wasau woman

A Wausau woman is the last link in a 68-person kidney transplant chain of donations that started in Minnesota, spread across the country and ended at the University of Wisconsin in late March.

After living with renal insufficiency for 30 years, 77-year-old Mitzi Neyens’ condition had begun to worsen in the past two years, she told Press-Gazette Media. She was able to take part in the massive organ donation chain after De Pere school teacher Megan O’Leary donated a kidney to a matched recipient in exchange for a matched kidney for Neyens, her long-time family friend.

“I was more anxious to get disqualified and not be able to donate,” O’Leary said about the donation process. “Most people say it seems like it would be hard, but to me it wasn’t, it just kind of felt like the right thing to do. I wasn’t nervous about it at all.”

The chain began in Minnesota with a woman who wanted to donate a kidney to no one in particular. Thus began the process of coordinating 34 kidney exchanges.

“It’s unheard of,” said Karen Miller, the paired kidney exchange coordinator for the University of Wisconsin transplant program. “It’s very, very difficult. So many things can happen during that process: a donor gets sick; a donor backs out; a recipient gets sick; somebody dies.”

The National Kidney Registry, which uses a computer to link organ donation chains, and 26 hospitals nationwide helped coordinate the kidney exchanges involving 68 people.

“It’s always amazing when transplants occur,” Miller said. “Was I surprised? No. As you get into paired kidney exchange I always hope for the very best and want every paired kidney exchange, every match, to proceed. That’s honestly unrealistic, that’s never going to happen.”

More than 2,500 Wisconsin residents are among the estimated 123,000 Americans in need of an organ transplant.

About 2.6 million people are registered donors in Wisconsin, and about 2 million more are eligible, according to advocates.

Make your car a Kidney Kar! Happy Earth Day!

    Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

REduce- REuse- REcycle!
Make your car, a Kidney Kar! (Tax Deduction, Free Towing)   Donate





World Kidney Day

    Thursday, March 5th, 2015


deen orrin linda garyWere you aware that Wonder Woman Loves Kidneys?  Linda Carter was a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho, along with Senator Orrin Hatch, and actor Gary Coleman (who passed away in Payson, Utah in 2010).

In honor of March is Kidney Month and World Kidney Day (not to mention your viewing pleasure) see Wonder Woman Linda Carter take on the bad guys (two criminals obviously representing High Blood Pressure and Diabetes) and then tossing them to the dirt: <div id=”fb-root”></div><script>(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = “//″; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));</script><div class=”fb-post” data-href=”″ data-width=”466″><div class=”fb-xfbml-parse-ignore”><a href=”″>Post</a> by <a href=””>Tony Hawk</a>.</div></div>


Doing Taxes, Getting Tax Deductions, Donating a Car to Kidney Kars

    Friday, February 20th, 2015

I have known Jason T. Jones since 1999 when he showed up with his resume.  I was looking for an assistant to relieve me for a 3 week maternity leave. He was a bright, smart BYU Marriott School of Management student getting his Masters of Accountancy with an emphasis in Information Systems Technologies (at the time, the  most up and coming new branch of business studies ). I was having baby #2 and he was in his 2nd year. The week before I took off we spent days discussing the National Kidney Foundation of Utah’s need to take the Kidney Kars data base out of Word Perfect & Excel Spreadsheets (yep, I said it) to MS Access. We discussed the processes by which we accepted donations, made invoices, did accounting, sent out tax receipts etc. I had invented a system which worked very well, but coming into 1999 my archaic system was quickly antiquated and ineffective as we were reaching over 5,000 Kidney Cars donations a year. Jason was a thousand times convincing that he was not only the man for the job — but very enthusiastic that I would be pleased with the outcome up on my return.

So off I went to have my strapping man child June 1999 (you should see that 16 year old now, that kid is a serious looker and a straight A student). In the meantime, Jason called his ‘genius’ younger brother (a then 15 year old brother Chris Jones, still in high school living at home in Portland, OR) to consult regarding queries, union queries, tables, forms, macros and modules. At that time, 15 year old Chris had just finished writing a data analysis software called “Cup Find” which analyzed companies data from the S&P 500 and the NASDQ for the past 50 years.  Cup Find was to be used to find the bottom of the curve by inputting company information so as to “buy low.” As I understand it, Chris still sells 1-2 units of the software a month still to this day.

When I returned from maternity leave, I was welcomed by a bright eyed, wide smiling young man thrilled to his core to discuss the database he had built, managed, organized and created on behalf of the Kidney Kar program. I have never to this day, EVER, EVER, EVER seen anyone more excited about numbers, logistics or data management.  NEVER.  and I have worked with a ton of CPA’s, tax attorneys and database people.  No one loves order, logic and data more than Jason.  I am convinced.

After Jason graduated we went on to have many other business interns–including his younger brother Chris when he too showed up at the BYU Marriott School of Management to get his Masters of Accountancy.  It was there Chris met his wife Brittany, also an account (did I mention how much these people love numbers, math, and order?).

I love these people with all my heart.  They have been the brains behind the business since 1999.  We continue to manage the Kidney Kars program on the original database making tweaks here and there, integrating an internet donation service that interfaced with the database back in 2002 (Long before anyone else was taking car donations online) and integrating Google AdWords  into our advertising strategies when Google gave us a $10,000 grant (before we realized our horrible competition serving fake charities across the nation would overtake us on AdWords by budgets exceeding $15,000 a month).  Poor us, we’ll never compete with businesses, the mafia or those mentioned in the Subpoena from the Attorney General of the State of New York.  Alas.

Today Jason has worked for almost all of the ‘Big 5’ accounting firms. When one of them sent him to India to teach the people of India how to prepare American taxes, he started his own accountancy firm.   He and his wife Rebecca have like 6 or 10 kids.  I lost count at 2. He is a patient dedicated father and still an amazing accountant mostly doing corporate, the Kidney Foundation and my entire family’s tax returns. Amazingly he still finds time to do the yearly preparing of the year end IRS 1098-C’s for the National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho’s Kidney Kars program donors.  Because Jason knows that people *YEARN* for their IRS 1098-C tax deductions as much as they *yearn* for free towing.

Chris Jones (the prodigy younger brother) also went on to work for some of the ‘Big 5’ and is to this day our ongoing database/website/IT consultant. Chris and Brittany travel the globe and have 2 beautiful babies– one of whom is named after me.  Ok, almost named after me.

The BYU Marriott School of Management has given us some of the finest, most diligent, competent, professional, dedicated interns in the history of interns (Hi Michael Broeberg).

So here’s to Kidney Cars Charity Car donation in Utah & Idaho!  Free towing and tax deductions for everyone!

Donate your car to Kidney Kars before December 31st for a great 2014 tax deduction!

    Monday, December 15th, 2014

Santa car

Give yourself a tax deduction this Christmas for donating your car to the National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho’s Kidney Kars program. Donating to before December 31st will get you a great 2014 tax deduction; towing is always free and donations benefit over 3,000 Utah & Idaho dialysis and kidney transplant patients, fund local medical research and free kidney screenings. or call (801) 226-5111 9-5/M-F

‘Tis the Season to make your car a Kidney Kar at

    Thursday, December 4th, 2014


It really is December. It’s that time of year again.  If you’re smart, instead of spending a ton of money this month consider saving a lot of money this month on you taxes by donating your car to the Kidney Kars program (National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho).
When you donate locally in Utah & Idaho you get a better tax deduction, free towing and the donation stays in our state to benefit local kidney dialysis and transplant patients.

So keep your Kidney Kars donation local and donate online at or call us at 1-800-tow-Kars.

Wonder who is winning the National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho Kidney Kars donation battle?

    Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
Coaches Billboard

Coaches Billboard

I put a Kyle Whittingham, University of Utah Kidney Kars Donation Ad up the day before their homecoming and got 106 Facebook ‘likes.’ They won their game and continue in their winning streak. However, someone wrote “You Suck” in the comments. We got 17 Kidney Kars car donations from Utah within 3 days of the posting. Then we put up a Bronco Mendenhall ad 2 days before BYU’s homecoming game. Bronco, got 117 Facebook ‘likes.’ and someone wrote “Love and Respect” Bronco!’ in the comments. BYU lost their game (continuing their losing streak). We only received 9 donations after we ran that ad. So to conclude: People donate more Kidney Kars to the winning U of U coach, but there is more loyalty and respect for BYU. No matter, win or lose Kidney Kars still provides free towing, and a tax deduction to Utah & Idaho car donations! If you want to donate your old car for a tax deduction, call us M-F/9-5 at (801) 226-5111 or visit
Utah Men or Cougars welcome! Either will get you a great tax deduction, free towing, and will help over 3,000 Utah & Idaho Kidney Dialysis and Transplant patients with services that save lives and lighten the burden for those in need. Make your car donation a Kidney Kar!!

A new start for Utah & Idaho Kidney Kars Donations (and Tax Deductions!)

    Friday, September 26th, 2014

a fresh start


On July 25, important bipartisan legislation was introduced by two

dozen members of the House Ways & Means Committee, which
oversees the federal tax code and the rules governing charitable
giving. The new bill would fix a problem — created inadvertently
by an otherwise commendable package of 2004 reforms — that
has caused a sharp decline in vehicle donations.
The current issue is one of transparency, or lack thereof. For a donated vehicle
worth more than $500, there is no way for a prospective donor to know the tax
consequences of the gift in advance. Every other method of vehicle disposal
has some certainty upfront, which has discouraged donation as a viable option.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, vehicle donations nationally have
dropped by 80% since the 2004 changes.  H.R. 4960, also known as the Charitable Automobile Red-Tape Simplification
(CARS) Act, would restore the timing of vehicle valuation to the beginning of the donation process, ensuring the donor can make an informed decision. This change would help charities across the country improve the volume and value
of items received through their vehicle donation program. The CARS Act would still allow a deduction for the fair market value of vehicles worth up to $500 and certified appraisal over the $5,000 threshold. Between those amounts, the valuation would be determined by an authorized online service (such as Kelley Blue Book), with the charity verifying through
an inspection of the vehicle’s physical condition. That would yield certainty for the donor while preserving the important tracking and enforcement objectives of the 2004 reforms. As of September 1, the coalition working to push this bill through Congress had secured 135 cosponsors, including 28 bipartisan members of the congressional tax committee. In the meantime, you can visit for more information. You can also join the many other charities working together with our informal coalition to enact this legislation by emailing us at

Danny Thompson 64, son of Mickey and Judy Thompson attempts 500 MPH in Utah

    Friday, August 8th, 2014

I grew up around car people.  My Dad ran hod rods through the orange groves of Riverside California with buddies, the likes of NASCAR’s Dan Gurney and preceded by the legend of Mickey Thompson out near Laguna Beach.  I grew up surrounded by all those old timey southern California car guys.  They told high school stories of souped up jalopies, drag races, submarine races, Levi’s and duck tails.  The smell of Ethanol and Nitro bring literal and figurative tears to my eyes remembering my own youthful days spent at road races, the Baja 500/1000 and the speedways.  When my Dad passed away in 2006 we had to Danny Thompson nitrclean out the house.  We had an 1800 Sq. Ft. 6 car garage and 3 sheds.  They were filled with transmissions, engines, engine stands, heavy duty floor jacks, parts and parts and parts, tools  that had first belonged to his father, and later to him.  

I knew the ‘estate’ sale we were to hold would bring a special crowd of friends and acquaintances coming to solemnly relieve us of things they had coveted — his “baby grand’ a mini race car with a Hayabusa engine, the road racers (class 4), Baja Bugs (class 5), his the 4 wheelers we’d ridden from San Felipe to Mulege in Baja and hand welded dune buggies I’d ridden in since I was 3.  This on top of all his cars (Mercedez 350 D, Datsun mini truck, Toyota T100, Ford Ranchero, Porche 911, and two VW Siroccos).

Of course I donated most of the older cars to the National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Cars program for a tax deduction ( or in Utah & Idaho). The towing was free, and we got tax deductions on the donations.  But the rest, we sold.

Coming up on this time of year in Utah makes me think of him.  We used to take trips outside of Salt Lake City, Utah with his buds for “speed week”  to watch the spectacle races races on the Utah Salt Flats (Bonneville).  This week the son of Micky Thompson (who broke 400 mph in 1960) will attempt a record breaking 436 MPH+.  Word is, his Dad never wanted him racing –worried he’d die in a crash.

Judy kissing Micky Thompson

All I can say is, I know what it’s like to have a Dad whose memory leaves you a  legacy you’re willing to lose your life chasing after just to feel close to them.  Good luck Danny!  I hope the Utah Salt Flats dry out soon.  Let us know if you need Kidney Cars car donation of Utah and Idaho to come out and tow away any junkers left behind!  But I know better than anyone — old race cars never die they just go round and round.  — Luz Lewis

Danny and Micky Thompson