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Haiti contributions deductible for 2009 taxes

By Hibah Yousuf, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Senate unanimously passed legislation Thursday that will allow taxpayers to deduct cash donations to Haiti earthquake relief on their 2009 tax returns instead of having to wait to file the claims next year.

Leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee from both parties introduced a bill Tuesday that makes contributions made between Jan. 12 and Feb. 28 count toward an individual's or family's 2009 taxes. The House unanimously approved the measure Wednesday.

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The legislation also allows contributions made through text messages to be deducted if cell phone bills are provided as proof of donation.

Ways and Means Committee chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the committee "developed this legislation to make it easier, and encourage people, to donate to the relief efforts in Haiti."

Leaders from the Senate Finance Committee introduced an identical version of the bill Wednesday afternoon. The Senate passed the bill late Thursday.

"Last week, Haiti and the world was reminded Mother Nature knows no deadlines," said Finance Committee Max Baucus, D-Mont., in a prepared statement.

Similar legislation was passed in 2005 to boost contributions in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred in late 2004.

Typically, charitable contributions count toward the year in which they are made. The current measure means taxpayers don't have to wait until next year to claim the benefit on their 2010 tax returns.

Factoring in the deduction: The Haiti relief contribution will count as an itemized charitable deduction. Itemized deductions are typically taken when an individual exceeds the standard deduction.

For 2009, the standard deduction for those 65 and under is $11,400 if married filing jointly or a qualifying widow, $8,350 if filing as a head of household, $5,700 if single and $5,700 if married filing separately.

If your adjusted gross income for 2009 tops $166,800 or $83,400 if married and filing separately, your charitable contribution is subject to the reduction of itemized contributions, usually 1%.

For cash contributions, the deducted ceiling is typically 50% of adjusted gross income, although in 2005, Congress passed legislation allowing 100% of income.

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