It’s the other side of Tax Day! I didn’t get any panicky calls for copies of lost receipts so far. Are you that well-organized or are your eyes so blurred with numbers that you dialed the wrong extension?
Anyway, I thought would discuss the delicate question I mentioned last time: How Much Can I Deduct For Them Books I Guv t’Ya?
The proper answer, of course, is “That’s none of my business.”
It’s in the fine print on the receipt form: I can’t assign a value to the books. If YOU assign a value and write it on the receipt, which I kind of wish you wouldn’t, all I’m endorsing when I sign the receipt is that you gave us such-and-such in the way of books. I’m not vouching for your value.
Now, having said that, I will move on to your next question, which is bound to be “Aw, can’t you at least give us a hint, Uncle Blogsy? Pretty please with whipped cream and powdered chocolate on top?” By the way, I kind of wish you wouldn’t put whipped cream on the receipt, either. Soggy receipts are hard to file, and those carbonless forms taste terrible.
As far as hints go, I had a memo from our Business Department which suggested a standard value of $5 per hardcover book and $1 per paperback book. Most people are happy with that hint; some are absolutely ecstatic (One wonders what they planned to deduct.) The only people who have not been perfectly satisfied are those with further questions: what about art books? What about CDs? What about records? What about sharing all that whipped cream and could I have two cherries on my receipt, please?
So another dodge I use is to explain that I have a pretty standard price of $3 per CD or DVD or videocassette, and $1 per record. I’m not assigning a value, in this case, I’m just stating a fact about the prices at the Book Fair. You’re still free to claim more or less, depending on your nature. I also use this when someone donates a book known to be valuable, or a set of encyclopedias: I say “Well, I’m planning to ask $75 for that, but only the customers will know if it’s WORTH that.”
Because that complicates matters as well. You can CLAIM $5 for that crossword puzzle magazine you bought for $4.95 and filled out three puzzles and realized the print was too small. The IRS is not going to drop by the Book Fair and check to see whether any of my customers will give fifty cents for it. When it comes down to it, the IRS has bigger things to worry about than whether you donated 50 paperbacks, and only 49 of them were worth a dollar. In most cases, the matter will be between you and your conscience.
Oh, you tucked your conscience into the bottom drawer of the desk when you filled out that 1040? I would never do such a thing, myself.
MY conscience is still under the chair where I push it while eating all these maraschino cherries. (WHY does no one ever think to bring hot fudge?)