Donations and Your Taxes

If you made a tax-deductible donation of $250 or more to a charity last year, you'll also need an acknowledgment letter from the charity before you can claim the charitable contribution on your federal income tax return. The IRS requires all tax-exempt organizations to send a written acknowledgment letter for any donation of $250 or more. The letter serves as proof of your donation and right to a tax deduction, and must contain the following information:

  • The name of the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
  • The date the donation was received.
  • The amount of the cash contribution (cash means checks, credit card, and payroll deduction).
  • A description (but not value) of non-cash contribution. As the donor, you will estimate the value of non-cash contributions when reporting them to the IRS on your tax return.
  • A statement that no goods or services were provided by the organization as a reimbursement, if applicable.
  • A description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services that the organization provided in return for the contribution—for example, a charity benefit dinner where some of the money covers the meal, and the rest is a donation.
  • A statement that any goods or services provided by the organization in return for the contribution were entirely intangible benefits, if applicable. One example would be a small gift, like a coffee mug or desk calendar with the organization's name or logo.

If you try to claim a donation to charity without proper acknowledgment or with an inadequate receipt, the IRS may deny the tax deduction. For the 2016 tax year, you should have received a written acknowledgment of all tax-deductible donations of $250 or more by January 31, 2017. If you have not, now is the time to pick up the phone and contact the charity so that you don't miss out on taking a deduction.