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Tax Information

IRS Publication 561
>> This IRS guide helps donors determine the value of property.

IRS Publication 526
>> This IRS guide explains how to claim a deduction for your charitable donations.

How To Donate A Cell Phone

By Steven Gilbert



Donating a cell phone is a great way to help the environment, help a great cause, and receive a tax deduction.  

With new technologies and new features on cell phones constantly changing, the average life span of a cell phone is roughly about 18 months. At this rate, there are over 110 million cell phones retired annually (this rate is increasing every year).  Only about 2% of all cell phones are actually donated or recycled.  This means that over 107 million unwanted cell phones are being discarded in our landfills.  A discarded cell phone can be an environment threat with the hazardous chemicals (lead, mercury, etc) from the rechargeable battery.  

Therefore you can help the environment by donating your used cell phones, get a tax deduction, and help a great cause because donated cell phones are: 

  • Used as emergency lifelines for seniors living alone
  • Used as emergency link for victims of domestic abuse
  • Refurbished and resold by the charities to raise funds for their cause

Please note that your used cell phone does not even need to be working for you to donate it.   


  1. Ensure your wireless service plan is disconnected and canceled.  Check with your wireless service provider if you are unsure.
  2. Erase any stored information, including your contact list, photos, videos, files, text messages, and listing of incoming/outgoing call histories.  
  3. Find a charity that is a registered 501(c)(3) charity or qualified religious organization that can lawfully accept your donation and from which you can get a tax receipt.
  4. Determine the fair market value of your used cell phone.  This can be done by using the IRS Publication 526 ("Charitable Deductions") and 561 ("Determining the Value of Donated Property") or consulting your tax advisor.  See below under resources for pdf copies of the IRS Publications.
  5. Get a tax receipt from the charity with the charity's name and federal tax ID number.  

* Please note that your used phone and any associated shipping expense are typically tax-deductible.  Most charities makes no determination of the value of your donated cell phone, and you should consult the IRS publications or your tax advisor regarding the tax effects of your gift.


  1. Ensure wireless service plan is canceled
  2. Erase all personal information on used cell phone
  3. Find registered 501(c)(3) charity or qualified religious organization
  4. Determine fair market value of used cell phone
  5. Get tax receipt from charity




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