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Giving smartly this holiday season; ways to help Oklahomans in need

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OKLAHOMA CITY - It is the season of giving and Oklahomans are some of the most generous people you could ever find.

However, that generosity could lead some people to take advantage of others this holiday season.

The Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants has a few tips to protect yourself.

  1. Look at charity review services and research online- The most popular services to use are Charity Navigator, GuideStar and the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance.

2. Find a tax-deductible charity - You will want to make sure all the money and goods go to an organization with tax-deductible status. The following are not tax-deductible:

  • Any organization that concentrates on political, lobbying and legislative activities
  • Any organization that is a chamber of commerce, labor union or trade association
  • For-profit schools or hospitals
  • Donations to online fundraising sites like GoFundMe or GiveForward. They are usually considered personal gifts but a tax-deductible receipt will be provided for a few exceptions.
  • Nonprofit lottery, bingo or raffle tickets
  • Time spent volunteering

3. Keep accurate records - All cash contributions must have documentation in order for it to be deductible.

4. Acquire all receipts and letters before filing a tax return - Receipts and letters issued by the charity are required for donations exceeding $250 and must be in your possession before you file a tax return. The letter must state the organization's name, the date and amount of the donation It must also declare whether or not any goods or services were provided in exchange for the gift.

5. Understand the fair market value - If you receive something in return for a donation, you can only deduct the amount that is above the fair market value of the merchandise or service.

6. Non-cash donations also require an acknowledgement - You have to determine the item's fair market value.

  • List of the goods donated and their condition must be in "good" condition or better
  • FMV of the used items.
  • Any item worth more than $5,000 must be appraised professionally before making a claim
  • If you donate a vehicle worth more than $500, you will need a written acknowledgement and 1098-C from the organization before you can take a deduction.
  • If your non-cash donations are valued at $500 or more, a Form 8283 Non-Cash Charitable Contributions must be filled out and attached to your tax return.
  • Travel to and from donation locations are deductible at 14 cents per mile
  • For a donation of publicly traded securities, the high/low average market price on the date of transfer is considered the FMV.

While it can be tough to decipher which charities are legitimate, there are some tried-and-true organizations.

On Thursday, NewsChannel 4's Kevin Ogle joined special guests to kick off the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program.

The angel trees are located at Quail Springs Mall and Penn Square Mall.

Right now, organizers say 9,000 little ones and seniors across the metro need help this holiday season.

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