In IR-2015-48, the IRS outlined the required records for substantiating charitable deductions. The basic requirement is that gifts are made to a qualified charity. The Select Check online tool at www.irs.gov shows qualified nonprofits. Even though they are not on the IRS web site, gifts to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are also deductible.
Most documentation must be in your possession before filing your tax return. You must itemize deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040 to claim these charitable deductions.
1. Gifts Over $250 – To claim a charitable contribution deduction, donors must get a written acknowledgement from the charity for all contributions of $250 or more. If you give property, the acknowledgement must include a general description of the property.
2. Property Gifts over $500 – A noncash gift with a value greater than $500 requires you to file IRS Form 8283. If the noncash gift has a value greater than $5,000 ($10,000 for family business stock), then an appraisal by a qualified appraiser is required.
3. Vehicle Donations – A deduction over $500 for a car, boat or airplane donation is usually limited to the gross sale proceeds. Your charity will send you Form 1098-C, which you should submit with your tax return.
4. Clothing and Household Goods – Gifts of furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens generally must be in good used condition or better to be tax-deductible. An exception is available for gifts of clothing or household items over $500 if you obtain a qualified appraisal.
5. Cash – You must have a bank record or a written receipt from the charity in order to deduct any donation of cash. The record must show the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, and bank, credit union and credit card statements with the name of the charity, the date, and the amount paid.
6. Credit Card Gifts – The statements should show the name of the charity, the date and the transaction posting date. For payroll deductions, you should retain a pay stub or Form W-2 wage statement from your employer showing the gift amount, along with your charitable pledge card.
7. Year-end Gifts – Contributions are deductible in the year when made. Valid checks sent by U.S. Mail by December 31 are deductible. Gifts charged to a credit card before the end of 2018 count for 2018, even if the credit card bill is paid in 2019.
Originally published March 20, 2015