Daniel Mace, CPA, PA


Substantiating Charitable Donations for Tax Purposes

To claim a deduction for a charitable donation, you must have certain documentation. The current tax law requirements are summarized in the table below.

Contribution Type Amount Contributed Records Required
(cash, credit card, check)
Less than $250 Bank record or written receipt:
  • Name of organization
  • Amount of contribution
  • Date of contribution
(cash, credit card, check)
$250 or more Same as for monetary contribution of less than $250 plus written acknowledgement stating:
  • Contribution amount
  • Whether charity provided goods/services in exchange
  • Description, estimated value of goods/services provided
(payroll deduction)
Any amount Pay stub, Form W-2, or other document from employer that shows amount withheld for payment to charity

Pledge card showing charity's name

Written acknowledgement if $250 or more is deducted from single paycheck

Property Less than $250 Receipt, letter, other written communication from charity stating:
  • Name of organization
  • Date and location of contribution
  • Property description
(Receipt not required when impractical to obtain.)

Record of property's fair market value on contribution date and how value was determined
Property $250 to $500 Same as for property donation of less than $250 plus written acknowledgement that states whether charity provided goods or services in exchange and, if so, their value
Property $500 to $5,000 Written acknowledgement

Form 8283 (filed with tax return) stating:
  • How and when property was acquired
  • Cost or other adjusted basis of property (unless publicly traded securities)
Property $5,000 plus Same records as for property donations of $500-$5,000 plus:
  • Qualified appraisal (exceptions apply)
  • Appraisal summary with Form 8283

Additional Tips

Here are some other points to keep in mind.

Multiple contributions. If you make multiple contributions of less than $250 to the same charity during the year, you generally should treat each contribution separately in determining the amount of the contribution and the supporting records you should have.

Donations of clothing and household items. To be deductible, these donations must be in "good used" condition or better unless you are claiming a deduction of over $500 and include a qualified appraisal of the item with your return. If you can't get a receipt from the charity because you left items at a charity's unattended drop site, note the charity's name, the contribution date, and a description of the items you donated and keep it on file. Also note the donated items' fair market values and how you determined the values.

Text message donations. If you donate money by sending a text message -- to a disaster relief charity, for example -- the donation will be routed through the cell phone company you use. The company forwards the amount you donate to the charity, and the charge appears on your bill. Therefore, the telephone bill showing the date and amount of your donation to the organization will serve as the proof you need to substantiate your contribution.