Oh my GOD, how did it become tax time already? This is my least favorite time of the year … I can say that openly and honestly. The panic of getting my taxes done on time stresses me out to no end. Then, the stress of how large of a check I will have to write based on how well I leveraged my tax deductions makes me crrrazzy! To that end, while it is already tax time, it is actually a really good time to ask your accountant about how you can make some different and better changes for next year to maximize your deductions. Also, if you’ve filed for an extension, here is a list of top tax deductions for 2018 including helpful tips on donations.

You’re probably already making donations to your favorite charities and perhaps getting involved in matching gift donations for fundraising initiatives. Or maybe you are attending galas that include that $1000+ ticket for the annual fundraiser. These are definite steps to take. Speak with your accountant about your maximum annual contribution amount that you can make. And do that! No need to leave money on the table come December 31 when you could have helped yourself by helping someone else with your donation.

One thing to watch for when contributing to organizations is, of course, knowing where your money is actually going. With fundraising events, you know that just because you spent $750 on that ticket doesn’t mean you can deduct the entire amount, right? The meal you ate cost something. So be sure before you plunk down your credit card or write a check (do people still write checks?) or send money through PayPal, the organization has shared with you what percentage of your donation is tax deductible.

Also with larger non-profits and charities, you may think your donation is going directly to homeless children in Africa, when really your money is going to the advertising costs for that TV ad you saw on PBS about said homeless children in Africa. Charity Watch is one service that offers a list of vetted charities that spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs. Start here if you’re looking for a cause to support via a reputable organization.

If you want to sort of “shop local,” that’s an option, too. I have friends who like to set aside a certain amount of money for the arts; not big arts funding like the Lincoln Center, but your best friend’s kid’s Go Fund Me campaign for their recording album, or your neighbor’s husband’s Patreon page for their upstart theater company. If supporting local is important to you, then this is one way you can really help dreams and tangible productions come to fruition—and you just might get a t-shirt or a VIP ticket to opening night. Ultimately, you’ll really be helping someone succeed and they will be incredibly grateful.

For the ambitious among you, consider starting your OWN non-profit. Every time I think of the lives my friend Glenda Gill is influencing through her Save A Girl Save A World organization, I tear up. I bet that you have some cause that is close to your heart already, whether it is rescue dogs, foster kids, or planting sustainable gardens in underused spaces in your community. Think about what you can do, and get started. This is no easy road, but companies like Charity Net USA can help (for a fee of course). Just be ready for the long haul and definitely include your accountant (and lawyer) every step of the way.

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