You must keep records to prove the amount of the cash and noncash contributions you make during the year. Which records you must keep depends on the amount of your contributions and whether they are cash or property contributions.

This Financial Guide discusses which records you must keep.

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Tip Tip: If you donate $250 or more, the donee organization must provide you with a written statement. Keep all such statements for your records, since they often will satisfy all or part of the recordkeeping requirements discussed here.


Cash Contributions before 2007

Cash contributions include those paid by cash, check, credit card, or payroll deduction. They also include your out-of-pocket expenses when donating your services.

For a contribution made in cash, the records you must keep depend on whether the contribution is:

  1. Less than $250, or
  2. $250 or more.

Amount of contribution. In figuring whether your contribution is $250 or more, do not combine separate contributions. For example, if you gave your church $25 each week, your weekly payments do not have to be combined. Each payment is a separate contribution.

If contributions are made by payroll deduction, the deduction from each paycheck is treated as a separate contribution.

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Contributions of Less Than $250

For each cash contribution that is less than $250, you must keep one of the following:

1. A canceled check, or a legible and readable account statement that shows:

  • If payment was by check ó the check number, amount, date posted, and to whom paid,
  • If payment was by electronic funds transfer ó the amount, date posted, and to whom paid, or
  • If payment was charged to a credit card ó the amount, transaction date, and to whom paid.

2. A receipt (or a letter or other written communication) from the charitable organization showing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.

3. Other reliable written records that include the information described in (2). Records may be considered reliable if they were made at or near the time of the contribution, were regularly kept by you, or if, in the case of small donations, you have buttons, emblems, or other tokens, that are regularly given to persons making small cash contributions.

Car expenses. If you claim expenses directly related to use of your car in giving services to a qualified organization, you must keep reliable written records of your expenses. Whether your records are considered reliable depends on all the facts and circumstances. Generally, they may be considered reliable if you made them regularly and at or near the time you had the expenses. Your records must show the name of the organization you were serving and the date each time you used your car for a charitable purpose. If you use the standard mileage rate, your records must show the miles you drove your car for the charitable purpose. If you deduct your actual expenses, your records must show the costs of operating the car that are directly related to a charitable purpose.

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Contributions of $250 or More

You can claim a deduction for a contribution of $250 or more only if you have an acknowledgement of your contribution from the qualified organization or certain payroll deduction records.

If you made more than one contribution of $250 or more, you can have either a separate acknowledgement for each or one acknowledgement that shows your total contributions.

Acknowledgement. The acknowledgement must meet these tests.

1. It must be written.

2. It must include:

  • The amount of cash you contributed,
  • Whether the qualified organization gave you any goods or services as a result of your contribution (other than certain token items and membership benefits), and
  • A description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services described above. If the only benefit you received was an intangible religious benefit (such as admission to a religious ceremony) that generally is not sold in a commercial transaction outside the donative context, the acknowledgement must say so and does not need to describe or estimate the value of the benefit.

3. You must get the acknowledgement on or before the earlier of:

  • The date you file your return for the year you make the contribution, or
  • The due date, including extensions, for filing the return.

Payroll Deductions: If you make a contribution by payroll deduction, you do not need an acknowledgement from the qualified organization. But if your employer deducted $250 or more from a single paycheck, you must keep:

  • A pay stub, Form W-2, or other document furnished by your employer that proves the amount withheld, and
  • A pledge card or other document from the qualified organization that states the organization does not provide goods or services in return for any contribution made to it by payroll deduction.

Out-of-pocket expenses. If you render services to a qualified organization and have unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses related to those services, you can satisfy the written acknowledgement requirement just discussed if:

1. You have adequate records to prove the amount of the expenses, and

2. By the required date, you get an acknowledgement from the qualified organization that contains:

  • A description of the services you provided,
  • A statement of whether or not the organization provided you any goods or services to reimburse you for the expenses you incurred,
  • A description and a good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services (other than intangible religious benefits) provided to reimburse you, and
  • A statement of any intangible religious benefits provided to you.

 

CASH CONTRIBUTIONS AFTER 2006


Contributions in cash, check or other monetary form in 2007 and after arenít deductibleóat allóunless substantiated by a receipt from the charity, a canceled check, a credit card statement or other supporting documentation from the charity. The substantiation must show the charityís name, and the date and amount of contribution. This applies for all money contributions, regardless of amount.

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Noncash Contributions

For a contribution not made in cash, there are special rules for valuing gifts of household items and cars, boats and aircraft (see these headings below). Apart from household items and cars, boats and aircraft, these general rules apply:

The records you must keep depend on whether your deduction for the contribution is:

  1. Less than $250,
  2. At least $250 but not more than $500,
  3. Over $500 but not more than $5,000, or
  4. Over $5,000.

Amount of contribution. In figuring whether your contribution is $500 or more, combine separate contributions of similar items during the year. If you got goods or services in return, reduce your contribution by the value of those goods or services. If you figure your deduction by reducing the fair market value of the donated property by its appreciation your contribution is the reduced amount.

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Deductions of Less Than $250

If you make any noncash contribution, you must get and keep a receipt from the charitable organization showing:

  1. The name of the charitable organization,
  2. The date and location of the charitable contribution, and
  3. A reasonably detailed description of the property.

A letter or other written communication from the charitable organization acknowledging receipt of the contribution and containing the information in (1), (2), and (3) will serve as a receipt.

You are not required to have a receipt where it is impractical to get one (for example, if you leave property at a charity's unattended drop site).

Additional records. You must also keep reliable written records for each item of donated property. Your written records must include the following information.

  1. The name and address of the organization to which you contributed.
  2. The date and location of the contribution.
  3. A description of the property in detail reasonable under the circumstances. For a security, keep the name of the issuer, the type of security, and whether it is regularly traded on a stock exchange or in an over-the-counter market.
  4. The fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution and how you figured the fair market value. If it was determined by appraisal, you should also keep a signed copy of the appraisal.
  5. The cost or other basis of the property if you must reduce its fair market value by appreciation.
  6. The amount you claim as a deduction for the tax year as a result of the contribution, if you contribute less than your entire interest in the property during the tax year. Your records must include the amount you claimed as a deduction in any earlier years for contributions of other interests in this property. They must also include the name and address of each organization to which you contributed the other interests, the place where any such tangible property is located or kept, and the name of any person in possession of the property, other than the organization to which you contributed.
  7. Any conditions attached to the gift of property.

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Deductions of At Least $250 But Not More Than $500

If you claim a deduction of at least $250 but not more than $500 for a noncash charitable contribution, you must get and keep an acknowledgement of your contribution from the qualified organization. If you made more than one contribution of $250 or more, you can have either a separate acknowledgement for each or one acknowledgement that shows your total contributions.

The acknowledgement must contain the information in items (1) through (3) listed under Deductions of Less Than $250, earlier, and your written records must include the information listed in that discussion under Additional Records.

1. It must be written.

2. It must include:

  • A description (but not necessarily the value) of any property you contributed,
  • Whether the qualified organization gave you any goods or services as a result of your contribution (other than certain token items and membership benefits), and
  • A description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services described above. If the only benefit you received was an intangible religious benefit (such as admission to a religious ceremony) that generally is not sold in a commercial transaction outside the donative context, the acknowledgement must say so and does not need to describe or estimate the value of the benefit.

3. You must get the acknowledgement on or before the earlier of:

  • The date you file your return for the year you make the contribution, or
  • The due date, including extensions, for filing the return.

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Deductions Over $500 But Not Over $5,000

If you claim a deduction over $500 but not over $5,000 for a noncash charitable contribution, you must have the acknowledgement and written records described under Deductions of At Least $250 But Not More Than $500. Your records must also include:

  1. How you got the property, for example, by purchase, gift, bequest, inheritance, or exchange.
  2. The approximate date you got the property or, if created, produced, or manufactured by or for you, the approximate date the property was substantially completed.
  3. The cost or other basis, and any adjustments to the basis, of property held less than 12 months and, if available, the cost or other basis of property held 12 months or more. This requirement, however, does not apply to publicly traded securities.

If total deduction for all noncash contributions exceeds $5,000, use Form 8283.

If you are not able to provide information on either the date you got the property or the cost basis of the property and you have a reasonable cause for not being able to provide this information, attach a statement of explanation to your return.

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Deductions Over $5,000

If you claim a deduction of over $5,000 for a charitable contribution of one property item or a group of similar property items, you must have the acknowledgement and the written records described under Deductions Over $500 But Not Over $5,000. In figuring whether your deduction is over $5,000, combine your claimed deductions for all similar items donated to any charitable organization during the year.

Generally, you must also obtain a qualified written appraisal of the donated property from a qualified appraiser.

If total deduction for all noncash contributions exceeds $500, use Form 8283.
Deduction may be reduced for property contributions after September 1, 2006 that are disposed of by the charity within 3 years after the donation. Certification of charitable purpose from the charity may avoid this.

Household items. No deduction is allowed after August 17, 2006 for household items, including clothing, that is in less than ìgood used conditionî. However, deduction is allowed where the amount claimed for the item in less than good condition is more than $500 and a qualified appraisal supporting the valuation is filed with the return.
Cars, boats, and aircraft. Strict deduction rules apply to contributions of cars, boats, or aircraft claimed to be worth more than $500.
(1) No deduction is allowed unless the donor gets a certificate from the charity and includes the certificate with the return claiming the deduction.

(2) If the charity sells the vehicle without significantly using or improving it, deduction canít exceed what the charity gets for it, except in case of the charityís sale (or gift) to a needy individual.

The charityís certificate must among other things show: the donorís name and taxpayer ID; the vehicle ID; if sold, that it was sold at armís length to an unrelated party; and the gross proceeds.

File Form 1098-C.

If the charity keeps the car for its own use (or sells or gives it to a needy individual), relevant details must be provided in the certificate. The donor here can use fair market value as reasonably determined.

DONOR ADVISED FUNDS. These typically are funds for a charitable purpose in which the donor has an identified account and has some advisory influence on how the funds are invested or distributed. Contributions to such a fund typically are deductible when made. After February 13, 2007, contributions to such funds arenít deductible unless the organization sponsoring the fund is a qualifying charity and confirms to the donor at the time the confirmation contribution is made that it has exclusive control over the assets contributed.  

Qualified conservation contribution. If the gift was a "qualified conservation contribution," your records must also include the fair market value of the underlying property before and after the gift and the conservation purpose furthered by the gift.

Related Guide Related Guide: ADVANCED CHARITY TECHNIQUES: Maximizing Your Deduction

Related Guide Related Guide: CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS OF PROPERTY: Maximizing the Deduction



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