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Individual Income Tax Guide

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Examples of Qualified Charitable Organizations

Amounts You Can Deduct

Gifts From Which You Benefit

Charitable Contribution Deduction Limits

Amounts You Cannot Deduct

Schedule A, Line 16 – Gifts by Cash or Check

Schedule A, Line 17 – Other Than by Cash or Check

Schedule A, Line 18 – Carryover From Prior Year

Table of Contents

Chapter 12 - Schedule A: Gifts to Charity

Introduction

In general, you are allowed a deduction for charitable contributions of money or property to organizations that are religious, charitable, educational, scientific, or literary in purpose, as well as organizations whose mission is  to prevent cruelty to children or animals. However, the deduction for charitable contributions is subject to a number of limitations as described below, and you may not be able to deduct the full amount that you gave to a charitable organization.

Verification of an organizations status: You can only take a deduction for contributions to a qualifying charitable organization. To find out if an organization is a qualifying organizaton, you can:

Examples of Qualified Charitable Organizations

Deductible Amounts

Expenses related to vounteer work for a qualified charity: You can deduct contributions of cash, property, or out-of-pocket expenses that you paid to do volunteer work to qualified charitable organizations. If you drove to and from the volunteer work, you can deduct your actual costs for gas and oil or take a deduction of 14 cents per mile. You can also deduct parking and tolls incurred in doing the volunteer work in addition to the amount you claim under the actual cost or cents per mile methods. However, if you were reimbursed for any of your expenses, you cannot deduct the amounts reimbursed to you.

Gifts from which you benefit: If you made a contribution to a qualified charity, and received a benefit in return for the contribution, such as food, entertainment, or merchandise, in general you can deduct only the amount the value of the contribution that is in excess of the value of the benefit you received. However, an exception applies for certain membership benefits that you are provided in return for an annual payment of $75 or less or for certain items or benefits you receive that are of token value. For more information about this exception, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

Example: You made a gift of $100 to a qualified charitable organization for a ticket to a fund-raising dinner. The value of the dinner was $70. You can deduct only $30 of the $100 you paid for the ticket.

Gifts of $250 or more:  You can take a deduction for a gift of $250 or more only if you obtain a statement from the charitable organization that:

You should not combine separate gifts in determining whether you have made a gift worth $250 or more. For example, if you donated $25 each week to your church for a total of $1,300 during the tax year, you should treat each $25 donation as a separate gift. If you donated to an organization through payroll deductions, treat the deduction from each paycheck as a separate gift. See Publication 526 if you made a separate gift of $250 or more through payroll deduction.  

IMPORTANT: The statement described above must be contemporaneous. For these purposes, this means that you must obtain the statement from the charitable organization by the date you file your return or the due date (including extensions) for filing your return, whichever is earlier. You do not have to attach the statement to your return; however, you should keep the statement in your records.

Charitable Contribution Deduction Limits:  Certain strict limits, which the IRS will enforce, apply to deductions for chartiable contributions. The amount of your deduction for a charitable contribution may be limited if:

See Publication 526 for more information.

Amounts You Cannot Deduct

The following contributions or expenses cannot be deducted as charitable contributions.

Schedule A, Line 16 – Gifts by Cash or Check: Enter on line 16 the total value of gifts you made in cash or by check (including out-of-pocket expenses).

Recordkeeping:  For any contribution made in cash, regardless of the amount, you must keep a bank record (such as a canceled check or credit card statement) or a written record from the charitable organization. The written record must include the name of the organization, the date the contribution was made, and amount of the contribution. If you made contributions to charitable organizations through payroll deduction, see Publication 526 for a description of the records you must keep. You should keep the bank or written record in your tax records but you should not attach it to your return.

Schedule A, Line 17 – Other Than by Cash or Check: Enter on this line the total value of your contributions of property other than those in the form of cash or a check. If you donated used items, such as clothing or furniture, you can deduct the fair market value of these items at the time of donation. Fair market value is defined for tax purposes as what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller when neither has to buy or sell and both are aware of the conditions of the sale. For more details on determining the value of donated property, see Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property.

If the amount you claim as a deduction is more than $500, you must complete and attach Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions. For this purpose, the “amount you claim as a deduction” means the amount you claim as a deduction before applying any income limits that could result in a reduction of the amount that you can deduct in the current year.

If you deduct more than $500 for a contribution of a motor vehicle, boat, or airplane, you must also attach a statement from the charitable organization to your paper return. The organization may use Form 1098-C , Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats and Airplanes, to provide the required information.

If your total deduction is over $5,000 ($500 for certain contributions of clothing and household items (see below)), you may also be required have the donated property appraised. See Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and its instructions for more information.

Contributions of clothing and household items: You can take a deduction for contributions of clothing and household items only if the items are in good used condition or better. However, an exception applies to a contribution of any single item for which you claim a deduction of more than $500 if you include a qualified appraisal for the item and Form 8283 with your tax return.

Recordkeeping:   If you contributed property to a charitable organization, you should keep a receipt or written statement from the donee organization, or a reliable written record, that shows the organization's name and address, the date and location of the gift, and a description of the property. For each gift of property, you should also keep reliable written records that include:

If your total deduction for gifts of property is over $500, you gave less than your entire interest in the property, or you made a “qualified conservation contribution,” your records should contain additional information. See Publication 526 for details.

Schedule A, Line 18 – Carryover From Prior Year: Enter on this line contributions that you could not deduct in an earlier year because they exceeded your adjusted gross income limit. See Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for detailed information on the claculation of the adjusted gross income limitations and the carryover rules for charitable contriubtion deductions.