Author Topic: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay  (Read 4506 times)

AlanStache

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Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« on: February 12, 2016, 06:34:53 AM »
I have many shelves of good fiction books that I am thinking of getting rid of to declutter my home, is it worth selling on ebay or should I donate them to the local library and take the tax deduction (I have itemized the last bunch of years)? 

The books are in good condition but with broken spines and are mostly timeless fiction.  I would not be decluttering any books that are actually worth 'real' money. 

I am not sure what the donation policies are locally, are not listed on the website and I will have to admit that I dont have a library card.  Any thoughts are welcome - thanks.

rubybeth

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2016, 06:58:00 AM »
I work in a library and used to take those donations from people at the checkout desk. Honestly, I don't think you'd be getting much of a tax break unless you have thousands of dollars worth of books--and the library may not even want them. I would call them to ask their receipting policy for book donations, and what they are looking for in terms of donations (like, do you have any popular titles on the bestseller list? They'd probably love extra copies of those, but "To Kill A Mockingbird," not so much). If they do a book sale, they may put the books there and raise funds--if you're cool with that, then donate away.

Selling books on eBay is kind of a crapshoot. You could try Amazon.com--DH and I sold many books this way when we had textbooks or popular titles. But it almost becomes not worth it with the amount of time spent mailing the books. :/

AlanStache

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2016, 08:09:38 AM »
I guess I dont really care what the library does with them so long at I get a receipt.  Would the tax break be proportional to original sale price or 0.3$ per book based on what they could resell for - or do I need to go talk to them locally?  Most of what I have is not stupidly common but I have very few current best sellers. 

Amazon is a good alternative too, but yeah it looks like a lot of envelopes and address labels :-)  over the weekend I can price out some random selection to see what my collection might be worth for resale and look into local resale book stores. 

Axecleaver

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2016, 08:29:55 AM »
Download the Bookscouter app for iPhone/android. You can use the camera to scan the ISBN code, or type it in manually (I used the Siri voice app to read it in). This searches hundreds of book buying sites for the best price. Every site has different prices - some books are a nickle on one site and $5-10 on another. Sort them into piles by site, then box them up, print out the mailing label, and ship for free. Any old university text books you have seem to give the best return. SF books, you might get a nickle to a quarter a piece.

Any books left over, take those to the library. They will give you a receipt, but it won't tell you how much it's for. You have to estimate that. If the value is over $500, you'll need a professional appraisal to support the deduction, which is too much of a hassle. So whatever you claim, make sure it's under $500. If memory serves, all these requirements are on 1040 Schedule A or some related, downstream form.

I just got rid of my 40 year collection of books last year when I sold my house, and this is how I did it. I made a couple hundred dollars, but over half were worthless and I had to donate them. My library sells them once a year in a big book sale, so it went to a good cause. I estimated at 50 cents a book for softcover and $1 for hardcover. I had over $500, so I put a few boxes in storage for donation in 2016.

AlanStache

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2016, 08:55:39 AM »
Bookscouter - had not thought of that, thanks!  I knew there were scanners for the 'pros' but did not put it together that there might be apps for that.  Does it give guidance on if the book is worth the cost of shipping - or do you not bother if the book is worth less than a few dollars? 

boarder42

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2016, 09:46:27 AM »
ebay blows dont sell on there

seattlecyclone

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2016, 09:52:38 AM »
When you donate books (or any other non-cash item), you may deduct the lesser of the fair market value of the item at the time of the donation or your basis in the item (generally the price you paid). How you figure the fair market value is basically up to you. I tend to donate unwanted things to Goodwill, which means I can just walk in the store to see what they're charging for similar things and I just use that amount.

Most of your books won't be worth selling on Amazon, especially if you're not on the "professional" selling plan. The people who are on that plan will have fees 99 lower than you, so they drive the price of older titles down to 1 in most cases. I'm not sure how they make money at that price even with the professional seller plan. Anyway, check the page for each of your books. You may have a few that could be sold for more than the price of shipping, but you'll be better off donating most (if not all) of them.

ponyespresso

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2016, 09:57:23 AM »
What I did was look up values of books on Amazon, and if it was worth my time ($10 and higher for me), I posted them for sale on AMZN. It's really really easy, you don't have to take pictures, write a listing, etc. I've sold a few of my old textbooks this way.

I donated the rest to the VA -- a lady from the local Elks (I think) picked them up from me and they took them to the VA (which is not in my town). It's a tax deductible donation as well and she said the veterans really love the books, and any kind, too as long as they aren't hardcover for some reason. My local library also takes books of course, and they sell them in their little secondhand store which benefits the library.

teen persuasion

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2016, 10:53:15 AM »
Another library employee here.  We do not accept college textbooks, encyclopedias, or Reader's Digest condensed books.  We take paperbacks and hardcover books in good condition.  We like children's books, bestsellers, large print, current non fiction.

In the past we would take most books (except my first never list), regardless of condition, and simply recycle if they weren't sellable in our book sale.  A change in our town's recycling policies prompted us to turn poor quality books away.  Any hardcover books recycled must have their covers cut off; we can recycle the pages, and trash the covers.  The manpower needed to do this is prohibitive, and of course it pains us to destroy the books.  Before this rule, we would simply put a box of books out for recycling, and residents could and did help themselves to them before the trucks arrived.

Call your library to ask their policies.  They may love them, they may only want certain categories.

Also consider donating to retirement communities.

AlanStache

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2016, 11:34:59 AM »
I think I will start with Bookscouter, then probably donate the rest to the VA - lots of military around south east Va.

Also GF has many boxes of old text books that she wants to get rid of, good selling prices might be the motivation she needs to open them up and get rid of some.

dcozad999

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2016, 12:59:55 PM »
I dumped mine all at Goodwill. Took 2 minutes.

Probably would have tried to sell them first, but were decluttering and trying to get the house ready for sale.  And it feels really good to go to Goodwill and dump 3 carloads worth of stuff.

Trudie

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2016, 01:04:34 PM »
What I did was look up values of books on Amazon, and if it was worth my time ($10 and higher for me), I posted them for sale on AMZN. It's really really easy, you don't have to take pictures, write a listing, etc. I've sold a few of my old textbooks this way.

I donated the rest to the VA -- a lady from the local Elks (I think) picked them up from me and they took them to the VA (which is not in my town). It's a tax deductible donation as well and she said the veterans really love the books, and any kind, too as long as they aren't hardcover for some reason. My local library also takes books of course, and they sell them in their little secondhand store which benefits the library.

I can't sell mine for much and they're decent, so I'm giving them to the public library for the book sale.  I used to sell a lot more stuff on amazon, but SeattleCyclone is right -- professional sellers on amazon drive the prices down.

ponyespresso

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2016, 02:06:48 PM »
yeah so many books are a penny plus shipping. but occasionally something will actually sell for a real amount and then I try to offer the lowest price! :-) I've off loaded my old art history & chinese textbooks that way (and that's about it...nothing else was worth enough to bother).

The_path_less_taken

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2016, 11:21:32 PM »
Another thought is hospitals/nursing homes/schools/rehab and homeless shelters, and even food banks....white bread and peanut butter won't sustain you the way a great Harlan Ellison novel will.

rubybeth

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2016, 12:05:34 PM »
One other thought: Little Free Libraries. You can put books in these without taking anything (unless it's already full), and they are pretty fun little enterprises. I'd only put things people are likely to want to read in these (classics, light nonfiction, popular fiction, children's books, etc.) in them, but you can see if there are any in your community by looking on the website: http://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/

Inaya

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2016, 12:16:10 PM »
Check with your library to see if they even take book donations. Mine doesn't. I figure that they wasted a lot of time sorting through mostly-unacceptable books--time that could be spent doing more productive things, like tutoring inner-city children or helping homeless people fill out resumes.

If you're artsy at all, and you don't cringe at cutting up books, there are TONS of crafts for old books. And if the prices at the art fairs here are any indication, then it's a pretty good investment of your time, since the materials are pretty much already on hand.

Axecleaver

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Re: Donate books to library for tax deduction or sell on ebay
« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2016, 08:25:20 AM »
Quote
Does it give guidance on if the book is worth the cost of shipping - or do you not bother if the book is worth less than a few dollars?
All the book buyers include free shipping for you, so the cost of shipping is "included" in their buy-price. That is, it's all profit for you, no expense other than the hassle of boxing it up. They use bulk-rate shipping (fourth class, I think?) which can take 3-4 weeks to get it across the country, but is very inexpensive. The Post Office uses this rate to fill up less-than-full tractor trailers with first class mail.

I sent about a third of my books to Powell's in Portland, OR. Here's their page on buying: http://www.powells.com/sell-books