Society

Here’s how charitable donations can help you while filing tax returns

Being a part of a charitable cause helps promote the greater good and can also make the donor feel good about themselves. Apart from the good vibes, it comes with another advantage, i.e., tax benefits. However, before filing tax returns, there are certain guidelines you shouldn’t overlook. Read further to know how you can make the most of your philanthropic endeavors.

  • Itemize to claim the contribution
    To claim a tax deduction for charitable donations, you need to itemize the contributions on tax return’s Schedule A, using the form 1040. You can file taxes with the help of an accountant or by yourself using a computer software.
  • Contribute to a qualified tax-exempt charity
    Typically, charities need to have a 501(c)(3) status to qualify as non-profit organizations such as educational institutions, hospitals, certain government agencies, and humanitarian foundations. However, establishments such as churches or other forms of religious entities are not mandated to acquire a 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue System.
  • Collect the receipts
    To claim tax benefits, it is imperative that you save the receipts and appraisal letters from the charitable organizations. Moreover, if the donation made to the charity exceeds $5000, then you need to get a professional assessment done in order to claim the tax deductions.

Claims excluded as tax deductions under charitable donations
Some contributions stated below can’t be used to file tax deductions –

  • Donations made to individual people
  • Donations made to political campaigns, political parties or committees
  • Donations made to business organizations or labor unions
  • Donations made to schools and hospitals which aren’t NPOs (non-profit organizations)
  • Donations made to the governments of foreign nations

Limits on charitable donations
The IRS has levied certain limits on the amount of tax benefits one can claim using charitable donations. Typically, your claims of charitable contributions shouldn’t exceed 50% of the adjusted gross income. In some cases, depending on the type of contribution made, such as a property, the limit on the tax benefit can be further reduced to anywhere between 20% and 30%. If your charitable donations are more than the prescribed limit, then the surplus amount will be moved to the next year’s tax filing season, so that you can claim your benefits then.

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Society

Different ways to verify a charity’s legitimacy

Donating money for charitable causes is one of the noblest things one can do for the society. However, while one is contemplating about making a contribution for the greater good, one must exercise some level of caution. Why? Because it is important to ensure that whatever money has been donated goes to the right place and is used for the proposed plan. Therefore, before making any donations to a charity, it is imperative for a donor to run a check on the establishment in question.

Signs of a charity con
Today apart from personal contact, charities use all types of communication mediums including phone calls, emails, text, and even social media networks to promote causes. Irrespective of how charities contact potential donors, there are certain red flags stated below that shouldn’t be missed.

  • Refusal to produce detailed data about its mission, identity, and expense breakdown.
  • No evidence of tax deduction for the contributions made.
  • Using a name that resembles eminent charity organizations.
  • Use of high-pressure donation campaigns that coerces the donor to make immediate transactions without giving one enough time to think or research.
  • Offering sweepstake rewards in return for a donation.
  • Asking for confidential information such as a bank account number or debit/credit card details.

Things to check before making a donation to a charitable organization
To make sure that your contributions benefit the right individuals and causes, here are some precautionary measures you should take.

  • Insist that the organization gives you some details such as an address, telephone number, websites, social media handles, and reliable references.
  • Research about the organization online, and pay special attention to search results or threads mentioning words like complaints, scams, or frauds.
  • Call up the charity and personally inquire about its causes and the mediums they use to solicit donors.
  • Check the charity’s credibility by examining if they are registered under the National Association of State Charity Officials.
  • Ensure that the donations made to the charitable organizations or fundraisers are tax-deductible.

Fortunately, today one can find various charity vetting tools online that can help donors investigate a charity’s legitimacy. Apart from the basic details, these online platforms inform donors about how a particular non-profit organization spends the accumulated money. Here are some websites that can aid donors in making the right decision –

  • GuideStar
  • The Wise Giving Alliance
  • Charity Navigator
  • Charity Watch

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Society

Ways in which real estate agents get access to property records

There might be various reasons why you need access to property records. When you are trying to access these records, you can always reach out to your real estate agent to get all the information you are looking for. The most common methods used by agents in order to secure property records are as follows:

MLS data: Just getting a copy of a listing from a customer is not sufficient at times because you may need more details such as the history of the property and so on. You can approach your agent and ask them to check up on the property’s history without applying any parameters regarding the status of the property. When you check for property records on the MLS data, you can get the sale history as well as the listing history to know if the property shifted hands recently or was removed for listing at any point in time and so on. You also get to check the agents who dealt with the property and know if it was the same agent who dealt with the property through any transfers. In order to get the best pricing, one of the best bargaining chips is to know how long the property has been listed for sale. This will help to determine the appropriate sales price based on previous listings and the owner’s current asking price.

Online title company’s database: Most real estate agents have access to online websites where you can get property record listings along with details such as the sales deeds or even mortgage history on the property and so on. Most of these websites give access to check details related to the property for the last 20 years, and there are some cases where the quitclaim deeds or other intricate details which may not yet be available to the public.

Paid online subscriptions: There are some online sites which give you access to authentic information for a small fee. Some agents have such subscriptions, and they can help you get the value estimates or any other essential property records that will help you establish the correct market value of the property.

With the help of your local real estate agent, you can get access to property records that will help you in making the correct buying decision.

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Society

Here’s what you need to know about property record searches

Getting property records to set up purchase transactions or to execute a purchase agreement is highly crucial when you are a buyer. These records bear all the details crucial for the sale of a property and give you an upper hand, especially when you are the buyer. The best details for negotiation are usually found in the history of the property, and when you compare properties based on their property records, your decision is definitely bound to be more logical than just going with facts that you are informed of by the owners. While most purchasers rely just on the data provided by the multiple listing service (MLS), there are other avenues for receiving property records.

Why are property records really that important? Well, if you could negotiate on the final price and push it slightly below than what the owners expected, it’s definitely a win situation for your finances. Let say you are looking at property records and find out that the current owners are a couple, and they want to sell in the face of their divorce. Now that you have this information, you know that they are motivated to get the proceedings cleared soon, and thus, there is a chance that they can drop a little lower on the price. Moreover, if through a property record search, you find out that the property was listed some time ago and is still to be sold, you can further find out what the reason is and negotiate better terms with the owner for a price reduction. When the property has been on the market too long, the owner is definitely trying to get the property off the hook as soon as possible. These are not the only details, you can also find details such as if the property is listed just now or have there been previous listings and withdrawn, foreclosure details, improvements on the property, cost of the original structure, etc.

The most common place to search for property records is at the public records offices. Each city has a records office that bears all the details and information pertaining to all properties in the area. You can just visit the county courthouse or the city hall and request the respective personnel to help you gain access to the property’s deeds or encumbrances.

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Society

Best DIY ideas for birthday cards

An upcoming birthday incites excitement in everyone but also invites panic as fellow friends search for the perfect card for the upcoming birthday boy/girl. But not to worry any longer! Here are some simple yet beautiful DIY ideas for birthday cards that surely anyone would be ecstatic to receive!

Lighting it up with cardboard candles
Firstly, fold some colorful, rectangular cardboard in half to make candles. If you don’t want it to be rectangular, feel free to make the candles into any shape you like. Next, take the cardboard candles in hand and cut out some wrapping paper in such a manner that it wraps around the length and diameter of the candle and stick it onto the candle with glue. Then stick the candles on the card and voila! That’s it. You may add glitter or any decorative sticker on the card surrounding the candles. When finished, write your dedications inside the card and done!

Pom-pom ice-cream card
Firstly, make three brightly colored, small pompoms using yarn. Make an ice cream cone using a piece of thick, yellow cardboard and a felt tip pen to draw the lines present in a wafer cone. Then cut it out in a triangular shape to fit the size of your card. Then, glue the cone and the pompoms on top of it onto the card, so it resembles an ice cream cone with dollops of ice cream. You may decorate the pompons and cone with glitter and washi tape as well. Follow this idea if you want to make an unusual, quirky birthday card.

Cupcake master card
Cut out a piece of colorful cardstock to make a rectangular card. Cut a multicolored cupcake wrapper in half. Press it down and trim the edges until you only have the cupcake bottom. Cut out a matching cupcake top (preferably brown for chocolate). Using double-sided tape, attach your cupcake top and bottom to your card. Take a candle, tie some lacy string onto its middle, and glue it on the card on top of the cupcake. Add glitter, tape, and anything else you want and make the card vivid and as colorful as you like. Just write a special birthday message inside and you’re all set!

These simple yet innovative ideas for making birthday cards will surely please the receiver.

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Society

Quirky ideas to implement on birthday cards

Birthdays are always special occasions, times when parties and celebrations tend to go out of hand. But who says cards cannot as well? Here are some crazy ideas to implement on birthday cards that are sure to be a hoot with the receiver of it!

If you’d like to give your friend a little scare on their special day, listen up. Simply take a plastic lizard or cockroach or any other small, slimy thing your friend detests and fashion it as a pop up inside the card. When the receiver opens it, it’s sure to freeze their heart for a second as they scream in horror, while you laugh manically in joy. A simple prank with just a birthday card!

The next idea would be to give the receiver a card that plays soft, sweet music once it is opened. The idea here is to let them enjoy that music for a few seconds but tweak the audio in such a way that halfway through the audio, it starts to play a wide variety of animal noises. This is sure to surprise your friend for several beats as they try to process what is happening!

The next idea is simple yet will surely stump the receiver of your birthday card. Simply take a colored paper, fold it into a traditional card shape, and stick it into an envelope in such a manner that it cannot be removed. Then make another card, but this time the real one with decorations and dedications and hide it with you. Give the birthday person the card in the envelope and watch as they valiantly try to remove the card from the envelope without any success. Finally, after seeing them struggle enough, whip out the real one and present it to them. You’re sure to get the stink eye, but it’ll be worth it!

The final idea is making the birthday person find your birthday card by means of a treasure hunt. Provide them with various clues and make them solve these to find the hidden treasure – your birthday card! This would be amusing not only for the birthday person but also for you as you’ll figure out how much of a detective your friend truly is!

These easy-to-implement yet quirky ideas are sure to trick your friend on their birthday and provide them with a little bit of fun on their special day!

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Society

Importance of getting an access to divorce records

Getting your divorce records, in the event that you lose them or they’ve been damaged, is not difficult because these records are usually considered public records. The only event when the records would not be accessible by authorized parties would be when the court has sealed the files due to some particular legal reasons. The common cases would be if the appellant was a victim due to domestic violence, abuse, or has to protect sensitive or critical information such as financial data. The only state in the country where all divorce records are sealed for a definite period of 100 years is New York.

The information contained on a divorce record will include the details of the divorce, the couple involved, their marriage, the reason for divorce, any legal issues between the couple, division of all financial assets, child custody, and alimony, among others. While all the details may not be available for access, a few details pertaining to the divorce such as the date of finalization can still be viewed. The access to these details or anything related to divorce proceedings is open only to the parties involved in the divorce proceedings. Third parties will only get a simple record of the divorce details and not the full access.

There may come a time in life when you need to find divorce records for various purposes. The common reasons why you may need access to the divorce records are that you want to change your name, get remarried, you need divorce records as proof for police visitation of your ex-spouse or school visitation for your children, you need to proceed with other legal proceedings such as child support or alimony withholding, you have to make changes to your income tax filings, you need to change ownership of property, or you simply need to provide it to your creditors. As a friend or a family member, you may need the divorce records of an individual in order to produce it at the probate court in the event of the death of one of the parties, or you need it for your family’s history records, or you just simply want to check someone’s marital status.

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Society

Here’s how to get your divorce records without any hassle

Getting a divorce is a tedious process. And once the lengthy process is over and the divorce has fallen through, each of the parties involved receives their copy of the divorce certificate. This document is extremely important as it is your only proof that the marriage has been legally dissolved. Whether you want to get remarried or need the divorce records for some legal pursuit, getting the divorce records in the event of losing them can be tricky, unless you know where you can find these divorce records.

While there may be quite a few options to secure the divorce records, to begin with, you will need certain concrete details such as the name of the divorce parties involved, the date of birth of each of the parties, and details pertaining to the location (state/county) where the legal judgment finalizing the divorce was acquired.

The first place to easily find your divorce records is through your attorney. On the event of finalizing any divorce judgment, every attorney carries a record of your case along with the final judgment copy for certain period, depending on their policy. However, you should always remember that at this point, the attorney will only have a copy of your divorce records and it is not the certified one that you got directly from the courts.

Another option is to reach out to the county office of the court’s clerk where your divorce was finalized and place a request by going there in person or through a phone call for a copy of your divorce records. There are some counties that have online options to put in your request. After you have provided a filled up form containing all the details required regarding both the parties, you would be required to pay a nominal fee in order to secure the records. The divorce records obtained here would be the certified copy. In case you have forgotten the county where you finalized your divorce, you can always get the same certified divorce records from the state’s Department of Vital Records. The process is similar to the county office and getting the divorce records would not be a problem as long as you furnish the required details and pay the fee.

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