Did you get rid of the Amazon boxes — or any other boxes — that all those holiday gifts came in? If not, there's a smart, convenient way to put them to good use that will benefit you, those in need, and the environment. Fill the boxes with donations for Goodwill and let UPS or USPS deliver them for free. You even get a tax write-off.

The Amazon Give Back Box program has been around for a while, but somehow it has stayed under the radar. This holiday season, it's getting some well-deserved attention.

How Amazon Give Back Box works

  1. After you've emptied your box, you can fill it with clothes and household items to donate to Goodwill. You can use any box, not just one that came from Amazon. The program does NOT accept electronics, liquids, fragile, hazardous or volatile items, including ammunition.
  2. Close the box securely and print out a free shipping label. Attach the label to the box.
  3. Take the box to a UPS or USPS location to drop it off, or schedule a free pick up.

The free shipping is great, of course, but the free pickup is what makes this program so easy; there's no reason not to do it. I have three Goodwill donation locations close to me (and a car), but for some people, taking items for donation can be difficult or impossible.

How to get the tax-write off

These donations are tax deductible, but you need to follow a few steps to make sure you can claim it on your taxes.

  1. Create an account with Give Back Box.
  2. Use the tracking number you get when you create your label, and itemize donations online.
  3. Once your donation has been accepted and processed, you will be notified by email and receive a receipt.

I'm not sure if a donation made in the next week or so will count for your 2016 taxes if the receipt isn't dated until 2017. Since we're so close to the end of the year, if you want to make sure your donations count for this tax year, take them in person and get a 2016 receipt. That's what I will be doing — but next year, I'll definitely be using the Give Back Box program throughout the year to send donations instead of letting them pile up for one big haul at the end of the year.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.