By Lauren Pastrana

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The holidays are a time to be extra generous, not just with your loved ones, but also with the charities that need it most. But you work hard for the money you give, so it’s okay to have that money work for you!

Today’s Lauren’s List has what you need to know to make sure your donations count on your 2016 taxes!

  1. Pay attention to the date: To make it count during the tax year, gifts must be made by December 31st. That doesn’t necessarily mean cash out of your account. If your check is dated for December 31st that’s fine, even if it isn’t cashed until 2017. Contributions paid with a credit card in 2016 are fine, even if you don’t pay off your card balance in full that year.
  1. Choose carefully. Only donations to qualified charitable organizations are deductible. If you’re not sure whether an organization is qualified, ask to see their letter from the IRS. And remember, you cannot deduct contributions to specific individuals, no matter how deserving they are.
  1. Itemize: In order to claim a charitable deduction on your tax return, you must itemize your deductions. It’s time consuming when you’re doing your taxes, so that’s why it’s important to keep good documentation of your donations.
  1. You can’t deduct the value of your time: Time is not money in this case. The IRS does not allow a charitable deduction for volunteering your services. BUT, any out of pocket expenses related to your volunteering that is not reimbursed is deductible, whether it be gas, parking or uniforms.

Do you plan on making any special donations for the holidays?

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Lauren Pastrana