As you clean out your attic and closets, you might find yourself neck-deep in bell-bottom jeans, polyester leisure suits, dusty garden gnomes and heaps of old toys – not to mention that collection of velvet dolphin paintings you inherited from your grandmother. You know you want to get rid of it all, but what will get you the biggest bang for your stuff?

You could plant a garage sale sign in your yard and try to make some quick cash. Then again, you could save yourself blood, sweat and tears and simply donate the goods to your local charity – which could lead to a decent tax deduction next April.

Keep reading to learn which option makes the most financial sense.

One’s Man Trash = A Wad of Cash?

There’s no question that garage sales require a ton of work. You have to sort through your unwanted stuff, place price tags on each item and then haul everything onto the driveway and neatly display the goods. If you want folks to show up, you’ll also need to promote your sale by planting signs around the neighborhood and maybe also advertising through the local penny-saver or community website. Yet despite all the time and effort they require, some folks actually enjoy holding garage sales – and the lucky ones end up making a decent chunk of change.

Although the average yard-sale item is priced at a meager 85 cents, these sales rake in more than $4 million each week across the U.S., according to a Signs.com study. While that may seem like serious dough, the profits are far less impressive when you break down the numbers by individual garage sales. The vast majority of sellers makes less than $300, based on a poll by YardSaleSearch.com. About 14% – savvy garage-sale pros – earn more than $1000.

On the plus side, the proceeds from a garage sale are not taxable. “Garage sales are considered the sale of personal property, and you do not have to claim the money you received from the sale,” explains P. David Alessandri, a Certified Public Accountant in Tampa, Florida.

Donate for Good Karma and a Nice Tax Deduction

If the thought of organizing a garage sale makes doing your income taxes sound like fun, you can always box up your unwanted items and drop them off at the local Goodwill, Salvation Army or another charitable organization's shop. You'll avoid a the headache of a sale and have the satisfaction of helping families in need. As an added bonus, you may be eligible for a tax deduction.

To be sure that donation is truly tax deductible, keep these three things in mind:

“As long as you itemize your deductions, you can list your ‘non-cash’ donations on Schedule A,” Alessandri explains.

Your donated items are assessed at “fair-market value,” which you can determine by comparable sales on eBay, Craigslist or at local thrift stores. You can also find donation-value guides on many charitable organization websites. If your donations for the year add up to more than $500, you must complete Form 8283 and attach it to your return. On this more complex form, you have to describe each item over the $500 that you donated, identify the recipient and provide information about the value of the item, including your cost or adjusted basis.

How big a deduction will you receive? That depends on your tax bracket and rate. For example, if you donate goods with a fair market value of $1,000 and your effective tax rate is 15 percent, you will reduce your tax bill by $150.

The Bottom Line

So, which has the higher payoff: garage sale or donation? If you file a tax return with itemized deductions, consider doing both. Hold a garage sale for some quick cash. Donate the items you don’t sell to a charity for the tax deduction. “That way, you’ll end up with some cash and maybe a little extra tax savings on your tax return,” Alessandri adds. If you take the standard deduction, though, bite the bullet and have a garage sale.

Related Articles
  1. Taxes

    Deducting Your Donations

    Generosity may be its own reward, but some charitable giving also provides personal tax benefits.
  2. Budgeting

    8 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of A Garage Sale

    Whether you're selling or buying, these tips can help you get more out of this summer's garage sales.
  3. Taxes

    Donations: How To Maximize Your Tax Deduction

    Donating to charity is a great way to show your giving spirit and save money on your taxes at the same time.
  4. Personal Finance

    6 Things You Shouldn't Sell At A Garage Sale

    Your garage is probably the most convenient place to stage a sale, but it may not be the most profitable.
  5. Taxes

    Give To Charity; Slash Your Tax Payment

    Being generous has never been more (financially) rewarding!
  6. Tax Strategy

    Profit from Art with a Charitable Remainder Trust

    With a CRUT, art collectors can avoid capital gains taxes on the sale of art– while also leaving their favorite charity a legacy.
  7. Taxes

    Free 2016 Tax Preparation! Top Online Services

    A place that fills out and files your taxes free of charge? It's no myth, as long as you have a simple return. Read on to find the top preparers.
  8. Taxes

    Confused About Estimated Tax Deadlines for 2016?

    If you run a business or have investment income, pay attention to this year's estimated tax deadlines. Here are the details, and what's new for 2016.
  9. Retirement

    Retirement Plan Tax Prep Checklist

    Here's a list of items you need to have in order by tax time, including paying attention to those pesky required minimum distributions.
  10. Personal Finance

    University Donations: Which Schools Got the Most

    A closer look at the staggering $40.3 billion donated to colleges and universities in 2015.
RELATED FAQS
  1. When should my tax refund arrive?

    More than 90% of income-tax refunds arrive in less than three weeks, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). However, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do I file taxes for income from foreign sources?

    If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, your income (except for amounts exempt under federal law), including that which ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Are Flexible Spending Account (FSA) items tax deductible?

    Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are employer-sponsored, tax-favored savings plans expressly for the future reimbursement ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How Long Should I Keep My Tax Records?

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has some hard and fast rules regarding how long taxpayers should keep their tax records. As ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Do tax brackets include Social Security?

    A portion of your Social Security benefits may be subject to federal taxation using tax brackets. Your tax bracket is determined ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Is dental insurance tax deductible?

    Dental insurance premiums may be tax deductible. To be deductible as a qualifying medical expense, the dental insurance must ... Read Full Answer >>
Trading Center