Proof of Charitable Contributions

What Is Proof of Charitable Contributions?

Proof of charitable contributions refers to the substantiation required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRA) for a taxpayer to claim a donation of money, property, or financial assets as an itemizable deduction on their federal tax return. Proof can be provided in the form of an official receipt or invoice from the receiving charitable organization, but can also be provided via credit card statements or other financial records detailing the donation.

Key Takeaways

  • Proof of charitable contributions provides evidence to taxing authorities that a taxpayer did indeed make a charitable donation to a qualified organization.
  • Because charitable contributions are often tax-deductible, taxpayers must furnish proof in the form of an official dated receipt from the receiving organization, or else some other official record of the transaction.
  • In the U.S., the IRS requires proof for any contribution greater than $250 in cash or $500 in non-cash items. Non-cash items valued at over $5,000 must also come with an expert appraisal.

Understanding Proof of Charitable Contributions

Proof of charitable contributions can differ depending on how much has been contributed. According to the IRS, acceptable forms of proof include bank statements, payroll deduction records, and written statements from the recipient charity containing the charity’s name, contribution date, and contribution amount. For contributions of $250 or more, the charity must also specify whether it provided the donor with any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

Taxpayers claiming a deduction for more than $500 in non-cash contributions must also fill out IRS Form 8283 and file it with their annual tax return. In addition, the IRS requires an independent substantiation of value, such as an appraisal, for non-cash donations exceeding $5,000. Taxpayers can consult IRS publication 561 to help determine the value of the donated property.

Recent Tax Laws and Charitable Donations

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 nearly doubled standard deductions. The standard deduction is the amount taxpayers can subtract from income if they don’t list itemized write-offs for mortgage interest, charitable donations, and state taxes, among others, on Schedule A.

For single filers, the standard deduction is $12,400 in 2020 and $12,550 in 2021. For married couples filing jointly, the standard deduction is $24,800 in 2020 and $25,100 in 2021. For tax year 2022, the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly rises to $25,900. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $12,950.

A taxpayer's itemized deductions now need to be much higher than the standard deductions to benefit from listing deductions separately. However, charitable donors still interested in receiving a tax break have options. One would be to bunch donations every few years to top the higher standard deduction and itemize their return, say, every other year.

Donor-advised funds could be an avenue for charitable donations as well. These funds allow donors to bunch smaller gifts into one large amount and take a deduction in the year of the gift. The donor then has the ability to designate charities as recipients at a later date. In the meantime, the assets can be invested and grow tax-free. It's worth noting that donor-advised accounts have fees. 

Another option for donors targets those who are 70½ years and older. These filers can utilize their individual retirement accounts (IRA) to make charitable donations up to $100,000.

Article Sources
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  1. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 526, Charitable Contributions." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "Topic No. 506 Charitable Contributions." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "Charitable Contributions - Written Acknowledgments." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Instructions for Form 8283." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 561 (02/2020), Determining the Value of Donated Property." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "Be Tax Ready – Understanding Tax Reform Changes Affecting Individuals and Families." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "Topic No. 501 Should I Itemize?" Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  8. Internal Revenue Service. "IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2021." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  9. Internal Revenue Service. "IRS Provides Tax Inflation Adjustments for Tax Year 2022." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

  10. Internal Revenue Service. "Important Charitable Giving Reminders for Taxpayers." Accessed Dec. 14, 2021.

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