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Call Kurtis: What Happens If Your Donated Car Is Stolen Before It’s Sold?

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ORANGEVALE (CBS13) — Donating is one of the easiest ways to get rid of an old vehicle. But if you plan to write off the donating on your taxes, it’s not so simple.

Unlike many donations, cars can only be written off for the value fetched at auction — usually far less than the Kelley Blue Book value.

Even then, if your car is worth more than $500, you may be opening a whole new can of worms.

Ed Villarreal wishes he had figured that out sooner, he said. When his car was stolen before it could be auctioned off — and he found out he may not get his full tax writeoff — he called Kurtis.

Villarreal could have sold his car on his own, but instead chose to donate it to a charity called The Breast Cancer Society, Inc. — mistaking it for one of the larger breast cancer organizations — all in honor of his grandmother who lost her cancer battle.

A longtime admirer of classic sportscars, Villarreal has always taken care of his family’s cars, he said.

After 15 years with his 1999 Dodge Intrepid ES, he didn’t have the space for it, so he signed it over to the charity.

He planned to write off the a value of about $2,500, but when the vehicle was stolen from the charity before it could be auctioned off, that plan changed.

Now Villarreal is upset his nice gesture may not help him or the charity.

“It was a complete good running car that completely worked,” he said.

Ed learned his Dodge was now at a Bay Area auto shop after being recovered — and then was sold to cover the storage fees, he said.

Jim McCallum of the nonprofit Sacramento Region Community Foundation helps people understand the sometimes-confusing donation process.

Car donors may not realize they can only write off the value received at auction, which is often less than the Kelley Blue Book value.

“You can’t get the [full] value if the charity got less for it,” McCallum said. “You’re limited to what the charity actually sold it for. That’s the big difference.”

But Villarreal’s donated car was stolen before the auction, so what does that mean for his tax writeoff?

The Breast Cancer Society based in Mesa, Ariz., said it couldn’t comment on what happened because it couldn’t get the company it uses for it’s car donation program to respond, but said Villarreal should talk with a tax advisor.

The response doesn’t sit well with him.

“They don’t care,” he said.

A tax attorney told Call Kurtis as long as Villarreal has a donation receipt, the law allows a writeoff of up to $500.

Ed said he’ll never donate a car again.

“I got hosed, and I think The Breast Cancer Society got hosed,” he said.

We learned The Breast Cancer Society used a company called The Car Program in Rancho Cordova to deal with the donation.

That company confirmed to us three cars were stolen off its lot.

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