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Don’t Fall for Charity Scams Following Disasters

The IRS warns consumers not to fall for bogus charity scams. They often occur in the wake of major disasters like the recent tornadoes in the Midwest or the typhoon in the Philippines. Thieves play on the goodwill of people who want to help disaster victims. They pose as a real charity in order to steal money or get private information to commit identity theft.

The scams use different tactics. Offering charity relief, criminals often:

  • Claim to be with real charities to gain public trust.
  • Use names similar to legitimate charities.
  • Use email to steer people to bogus websites that often look like real charity sites.
  • Contact people by phone or email to get them to ‘donate’ money or give their financial information.

The IRS offers the following tips to help taxpayers who wish to donate to victims:

  • Donate to qualified charities. Use the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool at IRS.gov to find qualified charities. Only donations to qualified organizations are tax-deductible. You can also find legitimate charities at the Federal Emergency Management Agency website, fema.gov. For more information about the kinds of charities that can receive deductible contributions, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.
  • Don’t give out information. Don’t give your Social Security number, credit card and bank account numbers or passwords to anyone. Scam artists use this information to steal your identity and money.
  • Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, don’t give or send cash. Contribute by check, credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
  • Report suspected fraud. If you suspect tax or charity-related fraud, visit IRS.gov and click on ‘Reporting Phishing’ at the bottom of the home page.

Get more information about tax scams and schemes at IRS.gov. Click on ‘Tax Fraud & Abuse’ at the bottom of the home page, or click here. You can also get Publication 526 at IRS.gov or call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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New Rates for your 2015 mileage

The Internal Revenue Service has issued the 2015 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be:

  • 5 cents per mile for business miles driven, up from 56 cents in 2014
  • 23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down half a cent from 2014
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile, including depreciation, insurance, repairs, tires, maintenance, gas and oil. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs, such as gas and oil. The charitable rate is set by law.

Taxpayers always have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using a vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates.