Before you donate those used sweaters and shoes to charity, make a list for your files of the items and the approximate value of each. A recent tax court case made it clear that you need such backup to defend yourself in an audit if you've taken an income tax deduction for noncash contributions totaling $250 or more. A standard receipt from a charity for a total dollar amount is not enough.
The case, decided on Jan. 26, involved an Arizona couple who ran afoul of the Internal Revenue Service because they couldn't document $7,000 in noncash deductions. After disallowing most of the deductions and an additional theft loss claim, the IRS increased their taxes by $3,015 and slapped on a 20% penalty.
To avoid similar problems, refer to the Salvation Army Donation Guide (salvationarmysouth.org/valueguide.htm). Users of the premium versions of TaxCut and TurboTax (INTU) can consult the deduction software included for free. Or, price comparable items on eBay (EBAY), print the posting, and keep it with your records, advises Laura Peebles, a director at Deloitte Tax in Washington, D.C. If your annual deductions for noncash items total more than $500, you'll need to report them separately on Form 8283.
For cash contributions of $250 or more, you need a canceled check or a charity receipt. If you have neither -- say you dig deep at church -- the IRS will probably let you off the hook if you've gone by the book with your noncash donations, Peebles says.
Sacre bleu! Red wine and cheese aren't such a good pair after all. So say researchers at the University of California at Davis. In a recently released study involving eight cheeses and eight red wines, trained tasters found that cheese reduces the perception of red wine's attributes, including oak flavor and acidity (an exception is buttery aroma, which is enhanced). One reason, they theorize, is that cheese coats the palate.
The findings were not greeted warmly. "I've had all kinds of people call and yell at me," sighs Hildegarde Heymann, a professor of sensory science who oversaw the study. All the fuss aside, experts have long known that red wine can be tricky to pair with cheese, especially pungent varieties like blue. White wines and Champagne are more reliable matches; their sweetness and sparkle can better stand up to the fat in cheese. But some reds can work, too. Max McCalman, artisanalcheese.com's ma?tre fromager, suggests a good farmhouse cheddar with pinot noir.
Heymann concedes that, outside the lab, taste is subjective. "Any wine you love will make a match with any food you love," she says. Now that's something to raise your glass to.
The Asia Society, the New York nonprofit founded by John D. Rockefeller III in 1956, will display 150 works of art amassed by three generations of Rockefellers. The show (Feb. 24-Sept. 3) includes paintings and sculptures from Afghanistan to Southeast Asia, ranging from an 8th century Thai bronze Buddha to a fan print by 19th century Japanese woodblock master Utagawa Hiroshige. Photos of the Rockefellers' New York estate, Kykuit, will be on view, too. Tickets are $10 at AsiaSociety.org.