Is A New Computer on Your Holiday Wish List?

11/4/2005

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Many people will receive new computers this coming holiday season, which means figuring out what to do with their old computer. When determining how best to dispose of your electronic equipment, the Better Business Bureau offers the following tips.

Whether you dispose of, donate or recycle your computer, you should first erase all of the files from its hard drive and other storage media. Otherwise, you may find yourself the victim of identity theft. If you are not a computer whiz, consider purchasing disk-cleaning software that can assist you in clearing your computer’s storage media.

Do not automatically assume that you can dispose of your computer at a landfill or the town dump. Contact your local government office to ask if local or state environmental regulations prohibit old computers and related equipment from being land filled. If it is permitted, you may have to pay a fee. Some cities hold special electronics recycling days during which you can dispose of small amounts of equipment at no charge.

If you decide to donate your old equipment to a school or nonprofit organization for a tax break, you will need to assess its value. To do so, you may want to check Internet auction Web sites, visit the computer manufacturer’s Web site, or pay a small fee to get an online appraisal from the Computer Blue Book at orionbluebook.com.

Next, determine whether the school or charity to which you wish to donate your equipment makes use of old computers or is willing to recycle them. Usually the computer must be in working condition and some charities will only accept computers of a specific age, make or model. Ask when and how to deliver the equipment to the charity and request a receipt for your donation.

Deductions are valid only for gifts to a recognized charity that has IRS approval to register as a tax-exempt organization. You can determine the tax-exempt status of an organization by contacting the local IRS office (consult www.irs.gov), or by asking the organization for a copy of its "Letter of Determination."

Finally, you may choose to sell your old computer or its components to a recycler. Contact the BBB for a report on the reseller before you make a decision. Some computer manufacturers will take back computer equipment at the end of its useful life, so that is another avenue you can pursue.

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