2002-11-23 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

During the holiday seasons, many of us donate to charity. Whether your donation is placing money into a container outside a store, over the phone, in person or through the mail, there are a couple of points to consider while making your donation.

First and foremost, it is important to find out what the charity intends to do with your donation. Ask for information about its programs and what percentage of your donation goes towards administrative costs. Charities in New York State are required to compile annual financial reports and submit them to the Attorney General's Office.

Not all contributions to charities are tax deductible. If you are interested in a tax-deductible donation, make sure the charity has an Internal Revenue Service determination letter that states contributions are tax deductible. This can be obtained at the IRS Internet site - www.ustrea.gov or through the local Better Business Bureau (BBB). If you contribute more than $250, the charitable organization is required to provide a formal receipt that states the amount of your donation.

One resource for obtaining information on a charitable organization is through the Better Business Bureau serving Metropolitan New York. The BBB has compiled information on over 1,000 New York State charities. Their website can be accessed at www.newyork.bbb.org, you can obtain information on a charitable organization, including if any complaints have been registered against a charity and if donations to a specific charity are tax deductible, among other information. Furthermore, the BBB does not endorse or support any specific charity. It simply provides an informational breakdown of each charity.

The New York State Office of the Attorney General is another resource available to consumers to obtain information on charitable organizations. The Attorney General's Office is in charge of regulating the conduct of charitable organizations. New York State Law requires most charitable organizations to register with the Attorney General and requires them to submit annual financial reports. To obtain information on a specific charity or to obtain a copy of its financial report, call the Attorney General's Office at (212) 416-8400 or at (800) 771-7755.

In light of the holiday season, which is a time when many New Yorkers make charitable donations, here is a summary of tips to help you make a generous and wise donation:

Find out what the organization plans to do with the donations. How much of the donation will be used for administrative expenses.

Be wary of organizations that state they do not have any administrative expenses or that will not provide financial reports and information on their programs.

Ask if donations are tax deductible.

Keep track of your donations, so you can document your charitable giving at tax time.

Pay by check, not cash.

If donating in person, ask for identification.

If donating through the mail, read the solicitation carefully.

Check out an organization through the BBB serving Metropolitan New York or the Office of the Attorney General to check the records of an organization.

I hope you share this information with your friends and family and remind them to check out a charitable organization before they give.

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