Awareness of changes in tax laws can speed preparation

CONYERS - In the coming months, taxpayers are going to be gathering information in preparation for the day in April when taxes are due.

Conyers tax preparer Jack Franklin said he's sure some customers will come in his accounting offices unprepared this year, but he hopes advising them about changing tax laws will reduce any confusion.

"Two significant changes were made in the area of charitable contributions," Franklin said, referring to the Pension Protection Act of 2006.

Under the act, taxpayers who donate funds or other items now must have a receipt - a statement or bank record - to prove their donation.

"Taxpayers will no longer be allowed to take deductions for money thrown into the collection plate at church, for money thrown into the Salvation Army Bell ringer's kettle or for anything else donated without a receipt," Franklin said. "Still, I'm going to have a ton of people come in this year and say, 'You did it last year.' But the law has changed; (the federal government is) going to hold (tax preparers) responsible."

Also, only donated items considered to be in good or better condition will qualify for a deduction.

"Therefore, taxpayers donating goods in only fair or a lesser condition will no longer qualify to take a deduction for the donations of those goods," Franklin said.

Jody Carver, director at the Salvation Army in Covington, said employees with the organization hand out receipts that customers fill out themselves for most items.

"For big items, like furniture and computers, we'll give them a receipt for how much it will sell for, but it's still up to them to put a price on it; that's on their plate," Carver said.

She said they do identify whether donated items are in good or better condition.

Franklin said he wishes more agencies would price items, but he works with clients to decide a fair price to claim for the items they donated.

"As long as it's a reasonable price, I can work with it," he said. "But whatever (the clients) have, I have to deal with it."

Franklin recommended that taxpayers keep apprised of changing laws to keep themselves protected in the event of an audit.

"(The law) is only going to get tighter simply because people are taking advantage of it," he said.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.