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Year-End Charitable Planning Tips

New record-keeping requirements for charitable contributions have gone into effect in recent years, particularly with respect to cash contributions and donations of clothing and household goods.

According to a recent IRS release, to be deductible, clothing and household items donated to a charity generally must be in good, used condition or better.  A clothing or household item for which a taxpayer claims a deduction of over $500 does not have to meet this standard if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return.  Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances, and linens.

On the other hand, to deduct any charitable donation of money, regardless of amount, a taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution.  Bank records include canceled checks, bank or credit union statements, and credit card statements.  Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the amount paid.  Credit card statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the transaction posting date.

Donations of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card, and payroll deduction.  For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.

These requirements for the deduction of monetary donations do not change the long-standing requirement that a taxpayer obtain an acknowledgment from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more.  However, one statement containing all of the required information may meet both requirements.

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