On January 22, 2010, President Obama signed a law which allows taxpayers to claim a charitable deduction in the 2009 tax year for cash donations made through March 1, 2010 for the relief of victims in areas affected by the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The IRS notice on this new law indicates that cash contributions eligible for the deduction against last years taxes include contributions made by text message, check, credit card or debit card. The law gives the taxpayer the option of deducting the cash contribution on his or her 2009 return or his or her 2010 return, but not both. The law does not change any of the other rules applicable to charitable donations such as the percentage limitations, the requirement that the charity be a qualified charity or the fact that the taxpayer must itemize in order to benefit from the deduction.
Each taxpayer should look at his or her own individual situation to determine whether or not the deduction should be claimed against 2009 income or 2010 income. Generally, the sooner the deduction the better but the taxpayer should consider his or her income in each year, tax rate in each year, and applicability of the itemized deduction phase out which is eliminated in 2010.
Further information regarding the deduction for Haiti earthquake relief donations and the identification of possible qualified charities can be found on the IRS website.