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Haiti donations qualify for immediate tax relief

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Taxpayers giving to the "Haiti Relief Effort," in the wake of the Jan. 12, earthquake that decimated much of the Haitian capital city of Port-au-Prince, can get tax relief themselves, according to officials with the Internal Revenue Service.

IRS Spokesman Mark Green said taxpayers filing deductions on their 2009 income tax returns may file the charitable contributions they made after Jan. 11, and before March 1, for the global, relief effort.

President Barack Obama signed the special tax-relief provision on Jan. 22. The White House web site noted that "cash donations to charities for the Haitian relief effort given after Jan. 11, and before March 1, of this year, may be treated as if the contribution was made on Dec. 31 of last year, so that the contribution can be deducted from 2009 income."

Green said the exception only applies to monetary contributions made by text message, check, credit card or debit card, and not goods or services. The contributions must also be made specifically for the relief of victims in areas affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Taxpayers have the option of deducting these contributions on either their 2009 or 2010 returns, but not both, he added. Taxpayers who have already filed this year, however, can amend their 2009 tax returns.

"This means you can receive an immediate tax benefit, rather than having to wait until you file next year's return," Green said. "[For those who itemize,] the combinations of charitable contributions, along with any other itemized deductions could result in a larger tax deduction."

Filing electronically and choosing direct deposit, he said, should expedite the process of receiving refunds, if the tax payer is due a refund.

"Taxpayers should be sure their contributions go to qualified charities," Green said. "The most important thing to remember is that, when you donate, you donate to a legitimate charitable organization. Churches around the state have received a tremendous amount of contributions."

Green said taxpayers should ask for proof that organizations have 501c3 status. He said legitimate organizations, like The Salvation Army, should be able to provide legitimate receipts upon request, following a monetary contribution.

One hundred percent of donations made to The Salvation Army in the name of the Haiti Relief Effort go directly to Haiti recovery, said Lafeea Watson, communications manager at The Salvation Army Metro Atlanta Area Command.

"The Salvation Army has had operations in Haiti since 1960," said Watson. "This is a continuation of what we've already been doing to help people in crisis."

She said donors may request receipts for donations made on site at area service centers, or by mail. "If you donate online, which is the quickest way to donate, you immediately get an e-mail confirmation sent back to you," Watson said. "We automatically give a tax donation letter for mailed donations of $250 or more."

Watson said those interested in donating to The Salvation Army's Haiti Relief Effort may make donations at the organization's area service centers.

Donors can make contributions at The Salvation Army Henry County Service Center, 401 Racetrack Road in McDonough, or at The Salvation Army Clayton and Fayette County Family Emergency Services Center, 130 Spring Street in Jonesboro.

She added that other contribution methods include donating online, at www.salvationarmyatlanta.org; by telephone at 1-800-SALARMY; or by text messaging the word "HAITI" to 52000, in order to make a $10 donation to The Salvation Army's Haiti Relief Effort.