Guides

Avoiding Financial Scams

What Records You Must Keep Relating To Your Charitable Contributions

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. New recordkeeping requirements were established for all contributions made after January 1, 2007. You cannot deduct a cash contribution, regardless of the amount, unless you keep as a record of the contribution, bank records (such as a canceled check or bank statement containing the name of the charity, date, and the amount) or a written communication from the charity.

This Financial Guide discusses which records you must keep.

Table of Contents

  • Cash Contributions
  • Noncash Contributions
  • Deductions Less Than $250
  • Deductions of At Least $250 But Not More Than $500
  • Deductions Over $500 But Not Over $5,000
  • Deductions Over $5,000
  • Out of Pocket Expenses

Cash Contributions

Cash contributions include those paid by cash, check, electronic funds transfer, debit card, credit card, or payroll deduction. You cannot deduct a cash contribution, regardless of the amount, unless it is substantiated by one of the following:

  1. A bank record that shows the name of the qualified organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution. Bank records may include: a canceled check, a bank or credit union statement or a credit card statement.
  2. A receipt (or letter or other written communication) from the qualified organization showing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.
  3. Payroll deduction records. The payroll records must include a pay stub, Form W-2 or other document furnished by the employer that shows the date and the amount of the contribution, and a pledge card or other document prepared by or for the qualified organization that shows the name of the organization.

Cash Contributions of $250 or More: You can claim a deduction for a contribution of $250 or more only if you have an acknowledgment of your contribution from the qualified organization or certain payroll deduction records. If you made more than one contribution of $250 or more, you must have either a separate acknowledgment for each or one acknowledgment that lists each contribution and the date of each contribution and shows your total contributions.

To determine whether a contribution is $250 or more, do not combine separate contributions. For example, if you gave to the church $25 each week, your weekly payments do not need to be combined. Each payment is a separate contribution. The acknowledgment must be written and state whether you received any goods or services in return. If something was received in return, a description and good faith estimate of the value of the goods or services must be included.

For payroll deductions, the payroll records must include a pay stub, Form W-2 or other document furnished by the employer that shows the date and the amount of the contribution, and a pledge card or other document prepared by or for the qualified organization that shows the name of the organization. If the pay stub, Form W-2, pledge card, or other document does not show the date of the contribution, you must also have another document that does show the date of the contribution.

Back to top

Noncash Contributions

For a contribution not made in cash, these general rules apply:

The records you must keep depends 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 received 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.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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 acknowledgment of your contribution from the qualified organization. If you made more than one contribution of $250 or more, you can have either a separate acknowledgment for each or one acknowledgment 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 acknowledgment must say so and does not need to describe or estimate the value of the benefit.

3. You must get the acknowledgment 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.

Back to top

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 acknowledgment 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 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.

Back to top

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 acknowledgment 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.

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.

Back to top

Out of Pocket Expenses

If you render services to a qualified organization and have unreimbursed out of pocket expenses related to those services, the following three rules apply.

  1. You must have adequate records to prove the amount of the expenses.
  2. You must get an acknowledgment from the qualified organization that contains a description of the services you provided and a statement of whether or not the organization provided you any goods and services to reimburse you for the expenses incurred. If so, the statement must include a description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services (other than intangible religious benefits). If the only benefit you received was an intangible religious benefit, you must receive a statement stating this; however, the acknowledgment does not need to describe or estimate the value of an intangible religious benefit.
  3. You must get the acknowledgment on or before the earlier of (a) The date you file your return for the year you make the contribution, or the due date, including extensions, for filing your return.

Car Expenses. If you claim expenses directly related to the 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 are reliable if you made them regularly and at the time you incurred the expense.

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 of 14 cents a mile for 2020 (same as 2019), your records must show the miles you drove. If you use actual expenses to complete the deduction, your records must show the costs of operating the car for charitable purposes only.

Related Financial Guide: ADVANCED CHARITY TECHNIQUES: Maximizing Your Deduction

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

Back to top

Ask a Question

Find comfort in knowing an Expert in accounting is only an email or phone-call away.

We Are Here to Help

We will happily offer you a free consultation to determine how we can best serve you.

Blog

Attestation Services: Compilations, Reviews, and Audits CPAs offer attestation services as unbiased options

frequently asked questions

  • What Is A Virtual CFO & How Can It Transform My Business?
    • a. A Virtual CFO can be a much-needed sounding board, coach, and guide. Outsourced Virtual CFO is generally not just one person, but an experienced team of professionals providing a full-stack Accounting and Finance Department at a fraction of the cost that it would otherwise cost a business to hire even just one full-time CFO internally. The right virtual CFO service team, such as the one at Perpetual CPA, can deliver timely, detailed, comprehensive financial reporting, interpret the financial data, prioritize recommendations, give expert guidance on how to execute those recommendations, and ultimately give a better path to business success.
  • How can a Virtual Accounting Department help small businesses scale and grow?
    • a. A growing number of small businesses are opting to outsource services such as IT, human resources, or accounting. The benefit of a Virtual Accounting Department is that the company can reduce or increase services to accommodate current business needs. Because the service provider has multiple clients they can absorb fluctuations in workflow more easily than the average small/medium business can on its own.

      b. A Virtual Accounting Department can integrate with a company’s own accounting department to create a blended solution or provide a full-stack accounting department, including Accounting Staff, Manager, Controller, and Virtual CFO. By using a Virtual Accounting Department Small business owners don’t have to worry about hiring, training, figuring out compensation, and payroll compliance for the internal accounting team. Also as the business grows and new and more complex accounting and tax issues come up, the outsourced Virtual Accounting Department can provide all the needed expertise to facilitate continued business success.
  • What are the benefits of hiring a CPA firm?
    • a. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) do a lot more than just crunch numbers and prepare taxes. They provide valuable expertise and strategies to help businesses and individuals achieve their business and financial goals. A CPA firm can help small businesses with management financial reporting, tax compliance, strategic business advice, and much more. Firms like Perpetual CPA, that specialize in helping small and medium-sized businesses achieve growth, can also provide Virtual CFO services, that help the business owners have the foresight into the short-term future cashflows and be able to more successfully navigate their business performance.
  • What are the best strategies for small business growth?
    • a. A business growth strategy is, simply, a plan of how a business gets from where it is today to where it wants to be in the future.

      b. Some of the questions to consider when coming up with a growth strategy are:
      i. Where will the business get new customers from?
      ii. How will the business expand into new markets?
      iii. What new products could the business offer?

      c. In reality, what happens with many small businesses, is that they generally achieve a specific level of business activity or sales and then the business growth trend flattens. In those cases, working with a firm like Perpetual CPA, which provides Virtual CFO services, can help small businesses avoid stagnation. Virtual CFO services, aside from providing timely accounting and tax reporting, can also provide valuable insight into the current performance of the business, as well as, foresight into the future cash flows for the business. Perpetual CPA Virtual CFO team helps small businesses interpret their financial information and come up with business strategies to help improve business performance and achieve growth.
  • What are the best strategies for small business risk management?
    • a. A risk management plan helps a business develop a detailed strategy to deal with certain risks that are particularly important for the businesses’ success.

      b. For many small and medium-sized businesses, the easiest way to develop and implement a business risk management plan is to work with a reputable CPA firm, such as Perpetual CPA. Large corporations invest a lot of resources and time into managing risk, which is a material factor that allows those large corporations to continue to generate billions of dollars in revenue every year. Small businesses, however, almost never manage any business risks, which is the major reason that over half of all the small businesses do not survive for more than 5 years. Generally, small business owners are not experienced corporate business professionals and lack the needed business knowledge, yet they often have to wear many hats while trying to get their businesses off the ground. In those situations, a CPA firm such as Perpetual CPA, can help small businesses better manage tax compliance risks, cash flow, internal controls, business administration, financial reporting, and much more.
  • What is Strategic Advisory and Virtual CFO? / How do Strategic Advisory and Virtual CFO services work?
    • a. When small businesses start spinning wheels, it is a good time to consider hiring a reputable CPA firm, such as Perpetual CPA, which can provide both Strategic Advice and Virtual CFO services.

      b. As a strategic advisor, the CPA firm will work with business management to improve the effectiveness and profitability of the business. They will look holistically at the business and find ways to operate the business more efficiently, increase customers through additional or improved marketing or improve customer touchpoints and service.

      c. As a Virtual CFO, the CPA firm is like a part-time version of a traditional CFO or Chief Financial Officer plus a full Accounting support team. They perform the tasks that in a larger organization would be performed by the CFO, Controller, and Accounting Staff such as preparing and overseeing the budget process, identifying and analyzing current and future trends, and developing strategies for the business growth.
  • How can timely financial visibility and management reporting help with better business decisions and growth?
    • a. A simple way to a successful business is to prioritize the timely financial visibility and management reporting as it means:
      i. Timely financial information and analysis are essential for making informed decisions, evaluating your company’s results, improving financial performance, and ensuring you are on the path to meet your strategic goals.
      ii. Management reporting is a source of business intelligence that helps business leaders make more accurate, data-driven decisions. But, these reports are most useful if they are available timely and the management receives proper interpretation of the business financial information.

free initial 30-minute consultation

    © Perpetual CPA 2020   •   Site Map   •   Privacy Policy   •   Disclaimer   •   Powered By   Designed by Dot Com Media Moguls