Do­nat­ing an auto? Be­ware

Los Angeles Times - - Business - Liz Pul­liam We­ston

Dear Liz: I want to dis­pose of my older car but don’t want to face the has­sle and in­tru­sion of sell­ing it. I’m hav­ing trou­ble find­ing a rep­utable car do­na­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion in my area. I checked with a char­ity watchdog site but it didn’t have in­for­ma­tion on spe­cific char­i­ties to use. Can you rec­om­mend an or­ga­ni­za­tion that op­er­ates ef­fi­ciently and ac­tu­ally gives a sub­stan­tial amount of the car pro­ceeds to char­ity?

An­swer: Start pay­ing at­ten­tion to which char­i­ties heav­ily ad­ver­tise their car do­na­tion pro­grams on com­mer­cial ra­dio and TV sta­tions — and strongly con­sider avoid­ing them.

Many of these ads are paid for by for-profit com­pa­nies that keep most of the pro­ceeds from car sales. “Even the most rep­utable of the agen­cies that han­dle these trans­ac­tions keep nearly 50% of the car’s value for their trou­bles,” notes watchdog site Char­ity Nav­i­ga­tor, adding that other, less scrupu­lous en­ti­ties keep 90%, or even more.

By con­trast, char­i­ties that han­dle the do­na­tions them­selves get to keep all or at least most of the pro­ceeds. But find­ing such char­i­ties may not be easy.

In­stead of start­ing with an ad, start with a char­ity you ad­mire. Call and ask if it ac­cepts car do­na­tions, or check its web­site. If the char­ity ac­cepts such do­na­tions, ask if it han­dles the do­na­tion it­self or con­tracts out to an-

other en­tity. If it con­tracts, ask how much of the pro­ceeds are do­nated to the char­ity.

If you’re stumped, check out your lo­cal pub­lic ra­dio or tele­vi­sion sta­tion. Many ac­cept ve­hi­cle do­na­tions, and al­though the sales may be con­tracted out, the non­profit typ­i­cally ends up with the bulk of the pro­ceeds.

Fi­nally, re­mem­ber that your tax de­duc­tion, if any, typ­i­cally will be limited to what the car sells for at auc­tion. And you won’t get any tax break if you don’t item­ize your de­duc­tions on the rel­e­vant year’s tax re­turn. skip­ping your child sup­port obli­ga­tions could doom your chil­dren to poverty, poor health and other ills.

Al­though you can’t erase your obli­ga­tion in bank­ruptcy, a Chap­ter 13 bank­ruptcy fil­ing — which in­volves a pay­ment plan — may en­able you to catch up on any missed pay­ments. A bank­ruptcy at­tor­ney can pro­vide de­tails.

In any case, the abil­ity to erase a debt in bank­ruptcy isn’t among the cri­te­ria for re­port­ing debts to credit bu­reaus. Other debts that typ­i­cally can’t be dis­charged, such as stu­dent loans, also show up on credit re­ports.

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