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FAQ

If we can donate property to deduct tax, how can people at a charity determine the fair market value of the goods?
The charity will only give you a receipt. For donations less than $5000, it is up to the taxpayer to determine fair market value. The Salvation Army and Goodwill have come up with good estimates of clothing and household items (hint - your used stuff is not as valuable as you think) and there is a website at Donation-Calculator that will provide the backup needed in case you are audited.Donations over non-cash items over $5000 require an appraisal and the appraiser must sign Form 8283. An exception to the appraisal rules is donation of publicly traded financial instruments.The IRS has stepped up auditing charitable contributions in the last couple of years because it is very easy to deny to deduction. The value of non-cash items is very easy for the IRS to dispute so don't try to claim 50% of original purchase price as the donation value - flea market price is closer to value.
What are the best practices for getting a tax deduction when donating to Goodwill?
You should have requested a receipt from Goodwill, which is blank so that you can enter the total value of the books.  Hopefully you have an inventory of the books that were donated, especially those in mint condition (a pic would be good too), if so, go online to get the "thrift shop" value of each. However, if you use Turbo Tax or other tax preparation software the calculations can be made for you once you enter the information.
How does goodwill set prices on the items that they sell?
Goodwill allows its worker's to price the various donations that arrive. However, they have guidelines that the workers are supposed to follow.Usually it's fairly evident to which category an item belongs to. If an item needing priced is in question, the employee simply asks another employee or pulls a manager out of the office to double check.Prices are not tagged with stickers. Unless its clothing, the item is written on with washable marker or crayon.The outlet stores are totally different. They weigh all your items up at the register with a scale. If you truly wanna save money you should go to the outlet store. I once found an all gold bracelet and paid just 49 cents for it and when finished ran across the street and sold it for 200 bucks!!
What is in your purse, briefcase, backpack, etc. right now? Why?
So, I have three bags that I regularly use: my book bag, my mini book bag, and my purse. I am an incredibly forgetful person so I can't trust myself to remember to switch my important stuff when I switch bags like normal humans. The fact that I don't like wallets complicates this.So, my book bag:My house, bike, and work keysDebit cardCTA passPencil pouch (5 different colored pens, post its, and highlighters)TI-84 graphing calculatorPhysics bookDay planner (I also write down my tasks in my phone because, as I said, I am VERY FORGETFUL)TamponsLighterE-cig liquidPhone chargerSpare glassesHeadphonesIn my mini book bag that I usually take to work or other places:Copies of my house, bike, and work keysAnother debit card (I asked the bank for another connected to my account)Another CTA passAnother day planner (and I also write stuff down in my phone because I am very forgetful… wait did I already say that?)Current book I'm readingTamponsLighterE-cig liquidPhone chargerSpare glassesHeadphonesAnd in my purse:Still more copies of my house and bike keys (I would lock myself out twice a week if I didn't do this…Yes, I know it's unsafe)A third debit card (they gave me some seriously weird looks when I asked for the third one)A third CTA passAnother day planner (seriously, if I don't write stuff down four times I will forget)A second copy of whatever book I'm reading (when I'm done I donate the second one to goodwill)TamponsLighterE-cig liquidPhone chargerSpare glassesHeadphonesIf I didn't do this, I would constantly lock myself out, forget my work keys, not have stuff to read on the train, not be able to get onto the train, or not be able to see.I'm so clumsy that I have broken 4 pairs of glasses in the last six months and so absent minded that I've had to get 5 new debit cards in the last year. Finally I just asked the bank to give me three separate cards that work so that when I forget one in another bag or at home it's not a big deal.I know this makes me sound immature, but I finally have a system that works so that I'm always prepared when I leave the house.Everything is also color-coded: the stuff that goes in my school bag has a green tag or a green post it or a green mark in the corner, everything in my mini bag is orange, and everything in my purse is purple. That way, if something from one bag ends up in another bag, I can quickly identify it and fix it.That pretty much covers my crazy system!
Should political parties be brought under RTI act?
Political parties must be brought under the ambit of RTI for following reasons:1.If political parties are kept out, it sets a precedent whereby other institutions can argue that they too be kept out of its purview because there are too many frivolous claims, too much paperwork, too many NGOs with suspect motivations and so on and so forth.2. Political parties in our country occupy a very central space in democracy. People don’t vote so much for individuals as they do for parties. Parties come out with great statements before elections. People vote on the basis of which party says what. Parties finally form the government and the government’s policies are decided based on the ideologies of the political parties. In India, it is widely accepted notion that fountain head of the corruption is political funding. Almost all political parties have got very valuable plots allotted by the Government at prime places in New Delhi and in their respective capital cities. It is therefore, necessary to introduce internal democracy, financial transparency and accountability in the working of the political parties.3. To ensure less influence of industrial houses on policy making: Most of the parties have almost 75% of their income from unknown sources. Generally corporate and industrial houses give them funds to change policies, give illegal clearance and to hamper their competitor’s interest. It may also hamper people and national interest. Political parties enjoy a “stronghold” over their elected MPs and MLAs under Schedule 10 of the Constitution. The Schedule makes it compulsory for MPs and MLAs to abide by the directions of their parent parties. It would be within the average voter’s fundamental right to information to know the financial details of political parties.4. Under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 all political parties must affirm their allegiance to the Constitution of India and such allegiance is made compulsory for the purpose of registration under sub-section (7) of Section 29A. Therefore, political parties so registered must furnish information to the public under the right of information under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India, since right of information has been held to be a part of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).The Law Commission of India in its 170th Report on ‘Reform of the Electoral Laws’ in May 1999 had recommended transparency in the functioning of political parties.Public character of political parties:1. The criticality of the role being played by these political parties in our democratic set up and the nature of duties performed by them point towards their public character.2. Indirect substantial financing by the central government, performance of public duty and Constitutional and legal provisions vesting them with rights and liabilities.3. Political parties are virtually funded by the state as they are exempted from filing income tax returns. The RTI Act says any non-governmental organisation substantially funded by government will be a public authority. Section 80 GGB of the income tax Act provides that contribution made by an individual or company to a political party is deductible from the total income of the assesse. This provision is exclusively applicable to the political parties and is suggestive of indirect financing of the political parties by the State.http://FAQs- Political Parties u...http://Political Parties under R...
What are the key differences between Zakat, Tithing, and Tzedakah?
Zakat is a compulsory form of donation that is prescribed to Muslims. So there is a specific way of calculating the amount on different assets, but basically it's 2.5% of income and assets that are worth above a minimum threshold amount. Also, the Zakat is to be given to people of 8 categories. This is in Surah At-Tawbah of the Quran: “Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” [9:60]Zakat and Tithing are similar in that there is prescription for a specific amount to be given for a specific purpose. So Tithing is to give one-tenth of your income or assets towards the furtherance of Christianity. However, it is my understanding that the New Testament tries to focus more on the act of giving as a voluntary act and does not restrict it to money, but extends it to love, mercy, justice etc. In Matthew 23:23, "Away with you, you pettifogging Pharisee lawyers! You give to God a tenth of herbs, like mint, dill, and cumin, but the important duties of the Law — judgement, mercy, honesty — you have neglected. Yet these you ought to have performed, without neglecting the others." So technically that would not be tithing but they do call it that in churches. This would then be closer to the concept of Tzedakah which is an obligation in Judaism to do acts which are righteous, just and with goodwill. The Tzedakah comes in two levels: The highest is to do such goodwill that would allow the beneficiary to be self-sustaining instead of being dependent on others. The second level is to donate anonymously. However, it is important to ensure that the Tzedakah benefits the right people (the poor or needy). These days, most people donate to charity organisations or lend a hand in the local community to fulfil the obligation. Tzedakah is also akin to the Muslim concept of Sadaqah which is basically the obligation to give help, money, knowledge, skills, or even a smile to another. In Surah Al-Insan of the Quran: 'And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive,-(Saying),"We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.' (76:8-9)It was reported by Abu Dhar that the Prophet Muhammad said, “Your smile to your brother is a sadaqah (charitable act) for you. Your commanding the right and forbidding the wrong is a sadaqah.  Your guiding a man in the land of misguidance is a sadaqah for you. Your seeing (showing the way) for a man with bad eyesight is a sadaqah for you. Your removing a stone or thorn or bone from the road is a sadaqah for you. Your emptying your bucket of water into your brother’s (empty) bucket is a sadaqah for you.” (Tirmidhi) Hope this helps!
What could be a better option than moving matches out of Maharashtra in IPL?
Ever since the reports came out of the total litres of water being used in a ground, for a match to take place, some people have just lost their mind & taking advantage of it, the media has also all of a sudden,started ‘pinching that point’ just to gain TRPs and sympathies of all kinds.Whole lot of demands are being made from shutting down of IPL to moving matches out of Maharashtra (being hometown for Mumbai Indians & Rising Pune Supergiants). Now, shutting down of IPL for the same reason sounds like Rakhi Sawant’s advice of banning ceiling fans to stop suicides. You’ve got to be a bit practical before making such demands as IPL contributes hugely to India’s GDP, helps in increasing tourists in India etc.In short, it would be something like banning use of Air Conditioners simply because many villages are still deprived of basic electricity facilities, while moving matches out of Maharashtra does tends to save some water if one looks with short vision, but then similar amount of water would be used in any other venue & thus this cannot be an idea to solve the problem in totality.So what’s a better option then?IPL generates huge profits and contributes immensely toIndia’s GDP. Figures of 2015 being somewhere around 11.5 billion while total economic output associated with IPL matches in India for 2015 was estimated at INR 26.5 billion.2015 Indian Premier League (IPL) contributed Rs.11.5 billion ($182 million) to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), says BCCI.So, what if they donate around 5% of the latter figure (135 crores) to villages (but in kind) in India.Must be wondering how?Let’s assume cost of 1 litre of mineral water to be Rs. 20(ofcourse cost would be lesser for normal water & I do not have any idea of how much it would cost, so I leave it upto anyone of you to help me out with that). Now, cost of water used for grounds would be around 15 crores (even if mineral water is taken), so water from tanker would cost much less.Now,what can be done next. Manoj Bhargava has started up with a project (Billions In Change), via which they have launched an electric bicycle. By peddling that bicycle for 1 hour a day, one can get free electricity to light up 24 bulbs, anelectric fan, 1 charging socket for 24 hrs. Sounds cool, right? Here’s making it sound even cooler, as per early estimates, it would cost around 12000-15000. So, it’s just a one time cost for unlimited electricity. Manoj Bhargava's innovative plan to offer free electricity in IndiaIn addition to water, IPL can also donate around 50000 such bicycles to villages, which would cost around 75 crores (assuming cost to be 15000).In short, out of 135 crores, 75 crores can be used in buying bicycles & other 60 crores for water for farmers & distribute as per requirementcountrywide.This is possibly one of the best ways to turn this problem to an opportunity to develop the country & keep up the goodwill of brand IPL.P.S: I’ve taken the maximum costs of both water & electric bicycle, so if we calculate actual figures, the number of beneficiaries would go upwards.If you like it, spread the word, as 1 man and 1 idea can make a difference if everyone spreads the idea.
What do you think about the fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris?
Ironically, my very first thought about the burning of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral was not about the cathedral of Notre Dame, but rather about a much more ancient monument in a completely different country, one whose fate bears certain striking similarities to Notre Dame: the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.Like the Notre Dame de Paris, the Parthenon was originally built as a house of worship and, like Notre Dame, it is named after a famous virgin. (The Parthenon’s name in Greek means “House of the Virgin,” originally referring to the virgin goddess Athena. Notre Dame de Paris means “Our Lady of Paris,” referring to the Virgin Mary.)Construction on the Parthenon began in 447 BC and it was completed in 432 BC. Just to put into perspective how incredibly old that is, at the time when the Parthenon was built, the land on which the city of Paris now stands was nothing but swampland; not only had the New Testament not been written yet, but the canon of the Hebrew Bible had not yet been compiled and many of the books that now make it up had not even been written yet; not only did the French language not exist, but Classical Latin did not even exist yet either; and Rome was just a tiny city in Italy that few people outside of the immediate region had heard of or even cared about.By the time the Gallic city of Lutetia, which is now the modern city of Paris, was founded in the first century BC, the Parthenon was already around three and a half centuries old—roughly half the current age of Notre Dame. By the time Old French evolved from Vulgar Latin in around the eighth century AD, the Parthenon was already around 1,100 years old—nearly one and half times as old as Notre Dame is today.By the time the Notre Dame de Paris was completed in around the late 1250s or thereabouts, the Parthenon was already over 1,690 years old—over twice as old as Notre Dame is today. Now, in 2019, it has been 2,451 years since the Parthenon’s final completion in 432 BC—making the Parthenon over three times as old as Notre Dame. The Parthenon has stood on the Akropolis for so long that you could fit the entire 243-year history of the United States into the lifespan of the Parthenon ten times over and still have years left over. To put it simply, the Parthenon is very old.Then, on 26 September 1687—a day which will forever live in infamy—the unthinkable happened. The Parthenon suffered a fate even worse than the one which befell the Notre Dame de Paris yesterday; the Parthenon was literally blown up. The small Ottoman-ruled village of Athens was caught in the midst of a battle between the Venetians and the Ottoman Turks. The Turks were using the Parthenon to store gunpowder and, in the middle of the battle, a stray Venetian artillery shell struck the Parthenon, igniting the gunpowder stored within.The result was an absolutely catastrophic explosion that completely destroyed the roof of the temple, destroyed three of the four inner walls of the temple’s sanctuary, crumbled the cella completely to rubble, knocked over six columns on the southern side of the temple, eight on the northern side, and the destroyed entire eastern porch of the temple. As the columns came down, down with them came the architraves, triglyphs, and metopes.Fire and fragments of ruined marble rained down on the village of Athens that day. The explosion is estimated to have killed around 300 people and caused massive fires which raged throughout the city for days afterwards. When the fires finally ceased, anyone seeing the rubble of the once-great temple would have agreed that that was the end of the Parthenon, that the temple had finally been thoroughly destroyed.Here is an illustration from 1688, showing the Parthenon as it looked before the explosion:Here is a painting of the ruins of the Parthenon as they appeared in 1715. As you can see, there was not much of it left:Here is the earliest known photograph of the Parthenon, taken in October 1839:Even today, after over a century of extensive restorations to the Parthenon, the damage from that terrible 1687 explosion is still readily apparent, as these photographs demonstrate:Why am I talking about the Parthenon in an answer about the Notre Dame de Paris? Well, it is because I want to make a point about how looking back at our history can inform us about the present. Even though anyone alive at the time who had heard about the explosion in the Parthenon would have said that that was the Parthenon’s final destruction, today the Parthenon is still one of the most famous monuments in the entire world. It is widely considered a symbol of the glories of democratic Athens, of Greek culture, and of what human beings are capable of. It is still visited by roughly 7.2 million tourists every year.Here are some photographs of the Notre Dame cathedral now, after the fire:As you can see, although the damage is certainly severe, there is still quite a lot left of Notre Dame. Indeed, there is a lot more of Notre Dame left than there was of the Parthenon after it was blown up in 1687. Other cathedrals have suffered even worse damage. The Frauenkirche in Dresden, Germany was almost totally destroyed during World War II, but it has since been rebuilt and is now one of the most iconic monuments in Germany.The French president Emmanuel Macron has promised that Notre Dame will be rebuilt, but, even if Notre Dame cannot be fully rebuilt, even if it is impossible for us to fully repair the serious damage that the cathedral has suffered, this is still not the end of Notre Dame. It will almost certainly remain one of the finest examples of medieval Gothic architecture for centuries to come.For more of my thoughts on the destruction of this cathedral, see this article I published on my website, in which I treat this subject in greater depth.
Where can you find information on the embodied energy of average, everyday consumer products and services without having to go through a Life Cycle Analysis?
I don't know of a resource that has the answers that you are looking for. Every Life Cycle Analysis I've seen is very granular and very custom. They are hard to produce, expensive, and often end up being difficult to compare. The LCA preparer needs to make many assumptions (about how the raw materials are acquired, transported, mfg.ed and disposed of) - with few precedents or standard guidelines to follow. This is still fairly new turf to explore.Here's an example why-  let's say you donated 2 t shirt to goodwill. One was nice, and ended up being re-purposed into a crafty rug. The other was stained, and ended up being burned in an incinerator. So, would that affect their carbon impact?  Of course.  So, determining a t shirt's average  "end of life"  carbon impact would involve settling on a (best guess) of current "practices"  (fr'insytance - 40% will get burned, 20% reused, and the balance end up in a land fill) then calculating and averaging stuff to arrive at a single figure.  This process of making best guesses for process and usage practices happens throughout the LCA process. It's pretty messy.Hope that helps.