ANNAPOLIS – When storms in late August toppled a tree onto Richard Kreutzberg’s 1988 Dodge Aries, he thought at least the parts could be used for something.
Kreutzberg started researching car donation, but soon was confused by information from charities, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration and the Internet, particularly when it came to changing the car’s ownership papers.
Kreutzberg, like many other car donors with similar frustrations, contacted Delegate Jean Cryor, R-Montgomery. Some of her callers received tickets on cars they no longer owned, while others, like Kreutzberg, were trying to sort through often-conflicting information about assigning the title.
Cryor never had problems donating her own cars, but wants to help others with a bill to clarify ownership rules for car donors that she plans to introduce to the General Assembly in January.
The number of complaints is not high, she said. Those who do complain, though, are just so passionate about the problem, Cryor said.
Use of car donations for fund-raising began increasing about seven or eight years ago, said Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer for the Arlington, Va.,-based Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.
The alliance advises donors to research the charity and make sure the car title has been transferred. This will ensure proof for a tax deduction and also help avoid potential problems with ticketing.
“Why even have that possibility open?” Weiner said.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart will get more than 10,000 donated cars this year in the Washington, D.C., and suburban Maryland area, said Rick Frazier, director of the order’s car donation program.
Purple Heart was created to help veterans, especially the combat-wounded, and their families. It has accepted car donations since 1993.
The organization picks up the donated car for free and gives the donor a tax-deductible donation receipt, something that Kreutzberg said was difficult to do for some charities he contacted.
That receipt, Frazier said, “removes them from any liability from that day forward.”
In a tiny number of cases, he said, donors forget to remove the license plate and will get a ticket in the mail. In that case, Purple Heart will pay for any tickets until the plate has been reported stolen.
MVA’s publication, “Buying a Vehicle in Maryland?”, puts responsibility on both the charity and the donor to get the transfer right.
Cryor’s final version of the bill is being reviewed by the state’s Department of Transportation.
“I’d like them to back the bill,” she said.