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What records do I need to deduct charitable contributions?

The IRS specifies what supporting documents you should keep as proof of your donation. Donations generally fall into three categories listed below and the requirements may vary for each.

  • Cash contributions,
  • Noncash contributions
  • Out­-of-­pocket expenses when donating your services

Go to this section in Credit Karma Tax: Gifts to Charity

Cash Contributions

Cash contributions include those donations paid by cash, check, electronic funds transfer, debit card, credit card, or payroll deduction.

You must keep one of the following as a record of your cash contributions:

  • A bank record that shows the name of the qualified charity, and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records may include:
    • A canceled check,
    • A bank or credit union statement, or
    • A credit card statement.
  • A receipt (or a letter or other written proof) from the qualified charity showing it’s name, the date, and the amount of the contribution.
  • A payroll deduction record such as a pay stub, W-2, written statement from an employer, pledge card, or some other document from the charity.

Cash contributions of $250 or more must have a written acknowledgement that lists the name of the charity, a description, an amount, and the date of the donation. The acknowledgement must also describe or give a good faith estimate of any goods or services received as a result of your donation. Intangible religious benefits do not require a description or good faith estimate.

Noncash Contributions

Records of your non-cash contributions generally require more detailed records.

Non-cash contributions of less than $250 in value require a receipt or other written communication from the charity, unless it is impractical to get one (for example, leaving property at a charity’s unattended drop site). You should, however, keep your own records that include the date, description, cost, fair market value of the property, and name of the charity.

Non-cash contributions of at Least $250, but not more than $500 in value must have a written acknowledgement that lists the description, amount, date, and name of the donation. The acknowledgement must also describe or give a good faith estimate of any goods or services received as a result of your donation. Intangible religious benefits do not require a description or good faith estimate.

Non-cash contributions over $500 but not more than $5,000 in value have more requirements. In addition to the written acknowledgements previously described for non-cash contributions. Your records must also include how you obtained the property, the approximate date you obtained the property, and your purchase cost of any property that you’ve owned for less than 12 months.

Non-cash contributions over $5,000 in value must meet all of the requirements for non-cash contributions previously listed, and typically require a qualified written appraisal of the donated property from a qualified appraiser.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

You must have adequate records for unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses related to charitable services, such as charitable miles driven. These expenses must have a written acknowledgement that lists the name of the charity and a description of the services you provided. The acknowledgement must also describe or give a good faith estimate of any goods or services received as a result of your donation. Intangible religious benefits do not require a description or good faith estimate.

Comprehensive information on these topics is available from the IRS:

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