How to Donate Old Eyeglasses for a Tax Deduction


Whether you’ve abandoned your eyeglasses for a more fashion-forward pair or have switched to wearing contacts full-time, don’t let your old glasses collect dust in a drawer – donate them to charity for a tax deduction! Instead of being one of the four million pairs of eyeglasses that end up in American landfills each year, your donated glasses can be repaired and given to a needy individual in a developing nation.

The World Health Organization estimates 153 million people around the world have poor eyesight due to errors that can be corrected with prescription lenses. Nearly 700 million people around the world have to live with functional blindness, or the inability to see well enough to do basic everyday tasks such as reading, writing, or cooking, due to lack of access to affordable eyeglasses.

Donating an old pair of eyeglasses is an easy way to help someone less fortunate whose quality of life is affected by their vision problems. In doing so, you may even qualify for a tax deduction. If you’re interested in donating your old eyeglasses for tax purposes, here’s some tips.

Find a Qualified Charity

Just because you’re donating an old pair of eyeglasses to charity, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to a qualified charity. Unfortunately, only eyeglasses donated to qualified charities will count towards a tax deduction. Eyeglasses donated to organizations that operate primarily for religious, educational, scientific, literary or charitable purposes typically qualify as tax-deductible donations. If you have any doubts about the status of your preferred organization, search the IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check, an online database of qualified charities.

Determine Fair Market Value

Just like any other piece of merchandise, your eyeglasses depreciate in value over time. As a result, you can’t write off the purchase price of your donated glasses. Instead, you can deduct only the fair market value, which is defined as the price a willing buyer would pay if all pertinent facts were known. Unfortunately, determining the fair market value of eyeglasses can be challenging since your prescription lenses are specific to you and your eyes. If the organization you’re donating to commonly accepts eyeglasses, they should be able to help you determine the fair market value of your eyeglasses. They may take a broad approach used on gently used items and use a 20% valuation rate, so a pair of eyeglasses that cost $100 may be valued at about $20.

Keep Your Receipt

In order to receive tax benefits, the IRS requires that a record of all charitable donations be provided. If you drop your eyeglasses off at an unmanned recycling bin and the fair market value is less than $250, you may be able to get away without a receipt or written acknowledgement, but you should still make a written note of the time, place, organization and value of your donation. Written acknowledgements are a requirement for all donations valued at $250 or above, and should include a description of the donated items, the estimated fair market value, and whether you received anything in return for your donation.

Report Correctly

When you file your taxes, you’ll need to use a Form 1040. Since it’s a non-cash donation, it should be reported on line 17 of the form, and combined with any cash donations on line 16. If the total value of your non-cash donations exceeds $500, you’ll have to also fill out Form 8283; this form shows the IRS exactly what you gave away. If the total amount of your itemized deductions is less than your standard deduction, you’ll have a lower federal income tax obligation by claiming the standard deduction.

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