Financial Tip Friday: Got Old Books? Donate Them to Charity

Financial Tip Friday: Got Old Books? Donate Them to Charity

It is the time of year when a lot of you are thinking about the holidays, presents, food, being with family and of course TAXES. Ah taxes. That lovely word will be much more ominous in the next few months. The past two years I have had to the give the government a large chunk of money.

Three primary reasons for this:

First, Mrs. ROB’s employment, while she makes money equivalent to a full-time employee, is between two to three different employers. Mrs. ROB, like me, is a college professor. Unlike me, Mrs. ROB teaches at multiple campuses, which means she is an adjunct and her pay is treated as part-time. When taxes are withheld out they aren’t held by the total amount of money she is making, but at that institution so her tax withholding are lower than normal.

Second, up until this year any extra courses I taught were taxed as a separate account from my job, which meant also my tax with holdings were a lot lower. In April of 2015, they changed that law, which means that any extra income I earn at my position, including extra courses or whatever are put onto one paycheck and taxed at one-rate. So this year I have paid more in taxes than ever (which is a good thing), but because it didn’t go into effect until April I might still not have as much taken out as needed. Note, Mrs. ROB and I claim no exemptions so we are having the maximum amount of taxes taken out.

Third, Mrs. ROB and I are in a different tax bracket. With our combined incomes we typically will be in a 25% tax bracket. Not very far into it, but still into a new tax bracket. We have had this occur every year since we have been married. All of these things, but primarily the first two have basically made us the IRS’s best friend.

So last year when we bought our house I was looking forward to itemizing our taxes. I knew we wouldn’t have had a lot of itemization, but I thought it would be enough to help out a bit. Unfortunately, we ended up owing the IRS over $4000. But I learned a few things during that process (I do our taxes myself) in terms of deductions. I never realized how much I could deduct for my books.

My most prized possession are my books. I have spent probably tens of thousands of dollars amassing an office collection of probably a thousand books and on top of that another thousand or so at home. The problem is that my office, at my place of work, isn’t big enough to house all of those books so when Mrs. ROB and I were moving into our house I felt it was time to part ways with them.

We have a home office, but it is nowhere near large enough to house all my books, bookshelves, etc. In fact, the woman who rented the house before us actually used this bedroom (which is our office) as a walk-in closet, which says how much stuff she had and how little closet space we have.

Any who I decided I was going to reduce my “pleasure” book holdings. So whatever books that I wanted for my research or classes I brought to my office (and I need another book shelf there as well) and then I donated the rest. Well, almost. I kept a series of Star Wars novels and books by Bernard Cornwell that I had collected. Unfortunately, they are in tubs in the basement and I don’t know when they will ever appear again.

Anyway, I am digressing. The whole point of my book story is the HUGE tax deduction we got for them. In the past, when we had put charitable giving on our taxes we usually donate bags of clothing and shoes to the Salvation Army, Goodwill or whatever. The overall value isn’t that much. However, when I was doing my taxes most of what we had donated (including Mrs. ROB) were books. Probably about 1000 in total. And over half of them were hard covers.

When I was doing my taxes the IRS, if you itemize, has a section for charitable giving. I put down the standard stuff (e.g. clothing, shoes, etc that we donate every year) but when it came to other things I put books and I didn’t know how to value them. It turns out the IRS actually helps you out with a value. Different types of books have different values. For example, and don’t quote me on this, but I think each hardback book we donated we could get about a $2 deduction. We have over 500 hardback books, which meant a total value of almost $1000-$2000. Plus, we had all kinds of paperbacks, valued at a lot less, but I think we got almost $2000 for our book donation, which was by far our biggest charitable deduction, even though we donated probably about 10-15 bags of clothing, bedding, etc.

To this day I feel kind of bad about donating all those books. I mean it took me years to collect them. However, I wasn’t going to read them again, most likely, and someone else should enjoy them. Accordingly, we donated them and were able to reduce our tax burden instead. It probably saved us a couple thousand dollars in extra taxes to pay.

The Bottom Line: If you itemize your taxes, looking for deductions, and you have a lot of books, I might consider donating them. Ultimately, it was the right thing to do. Not because of the money we saved, but in the hopes that others could enjoy them.

P.S. I am not giving up the Star Wars books, even though they are no longer considered canon in the Star Wars Universe. Besides, I might need them for research someday.

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