Thursday, December 11, 2008

Donating the Junker - er, I mean - Really Valuable Vintage Car

UPDATE: Goodwill did not respond to my request to donate the car - I sent them an email form as they indicated. So I called Arlington American Red Cross and they did marvelously! 12/22/8

We have a habit of driving cars straight into the ground - and we have been once again successful in doing so with our 1998 Dodge Minivan. The 2nd transmission has gone kaputnik and it is time to move on. Figure the car is worth more as a donation then anything.

Arlington has a little information about donating a car - mainly just who to donate it to. Okay - but this is a car we are talking about. Before I donate it, I would like to understand the process: what is the tax benefit - and how do I make sure my liability for the car ends with donation.

Consumer Reports is always good with information and once again has a pretty good article. CR recommends, during the process
  • Record the name and the address of the group to whom you donated the car and the date of the donation
  • Get a receipt
  • Retain a copy of the title indicating the change of ownership
  • Report the transfer to the DMV
  • When the charity takes possession of the car, remove every indication of your ownership: tags, registration, inspection stickers.
And a good thing to remember, cancel you car insurance.

Most charities partner with a car auction shop. The auction shop is the charities agent and the auction shop is actually the one who will come and pick your car up. Many charities ask that you fill out the title showing that your are transferring title, but leaving the "to whom" blank. I mean, I dont know, but I am kind of uncomfortable with that. I want to know that the title transfer is clean so that if, 15 minutes after the auction shop tows the car away, if my former car gets into an accident - its perfectly clear its not mine. I really dont know what the law is here but then that is why I am concerned with the informal loosey gooseyness of a lot of the charity donation opportunities.

The IRS has some advice about donating cars:
Internal Revenue Service officials today reminded taxpayers that they must obtain a charity’s written acknowledgment of their vehicle donation before they claim a deduction for the donation. For deductions of more than $500, the taxpayer is required to attach the acknowledgment to the taxpayer’s return for the year of the donation.
. . . . .
However, a taxpayer cannot take a charitable contribution deduction of $500 or more for a vehicle donation unless the taxpayer has received a written acknowledgment of the donation from the charity and attached the acknowledgment to the return.
Obvious, as with all donations to charity, the charity to which you donate must be an actual IRS approved charity.

A search of the Commonwealth of Virginia website did not provide much useful information.

Arlington charities that accpet vehicle donations include the Arlington Red Cross, Melwood, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and more.

I consistently like Goodwill of the Greater Washington Area which has some wonderful shops in Arlington. Once again Goodwill proves itself by having the best information I found online on the donation process and what you should do. For example, Goodwill reminds people to remove the plates and register the transfer at the DMV to avoid getting parking tickets on the car you thought that you had donated several months prior.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dear Santa, Please Send a Phoenix Bike!

Arlington is a great biking community. When I first moved to Arlington, and was a lot younger, I biked to work about 3 times a week. Ah for the days when I could fly up the Arlington Hill (Curtis trail along 66) barely breaking a sweat!

Recently I enjoyed biking down Four Mile Run. Anyone know what the best part of biking Four Mile Run is? Anyone? Anyone?

Yes, that's right, biking past the "Mile 5" signpost on Four Mile Run! There is a picture of this oxymoron up at my office.

Anywho, along Four Mile Run is Phoenix Bikes - yet another cool part of Arlington. Phoenix Bikes is a non profit that works "with young people in the community, building bikes and building leaders"
"In March 2007, Phoenix Bike Shop opened its doors in Barcroft Park, Arlington, VA, as an nonprofit organization. With the fire of a dedicated group of citizens and cyclists, the shop grew from the ashes of Community Spokes, a community bike shop sponsored by the Arlington County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. Our first year has been spent getting our feet; our second year will be spent learning to fly. Though we have accomplished much already within the walls of our small brick building in the park, additional plans for growth include increasing our supply of bikes to local families and employment centers, creating a mobile bike shop, and enriching our leadership curriculum with mentoring and other training opportunities."
Just in time for Santa Macabee, Phoenix bikes is putting on a bike sale:

From the Phoenix press release:

On Saturday, December 6, four local, non-profit bike programs are joining forces to bring more bikes to DC streets. The programs, Phoenix Bikes, Renaissance Community Youth Bike Project, The Mount Rainier Bike Coop, and the Rockville Youth Bike Project, use bikes to help young people get active, have fun learning, and serve their communities. There'll be 20 - 30 road, hybrid, single-speed, kids, and mountain bikes, refurbished by youth, volunteer, and staff mechanics. Best of all, proceeds go to keeping these programs and their cyclists moving. Come by the Bike Sale, running from 10am – 3 pm at Big Bear CafĂ© (1700 First St. NW, DC) to find a new ride for 2009!
Do you think the hybrid bikes look like priuses and charge their batteries when you apply the brakes??