Tax Tip: Deduct Donations to Charity

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Most of us know you can deduct on your Schedule A any contributions you make to a qualified church or tax-exempt charity. The IRS says you must have a hard-copy receipt for every single dollar you contribute to claim a tax deduction, though, and those must meet certain criteria.

Deductions will not be allowed for any contribution by cash or check unless you have a record of the contribution – such as:

  • an actual canceled check
  • a bank record, such as a copy of the front of the check included on your monthly bank statement
  • an entry on a bank or credit card statement showing a credit or debit card charge
  • a written receipt or acknowledgement from the church or charity with its name, date of contribution and amount of the contribution
  • a pay stub or other employer-furnished document showing the amount withheld for a payment to a charity.

You can no longer tell the IRS you put a $10 bill in the collection plate each week. You must write a check to the church for the $10 each week. Or you must take advantage of the church's envelope system, which provides you with a written receipt at the end of the year.

The law does not say all contributions of more than $50 or more than $100 must be documented — it says all cash contributions must be documented. So if you give the Disabled American Veterans a dollar for a poppy you must get a receipt!

For all the latest tax tips as you prepare your 2010 returns, check out MainStreet's Tax Center, updated daily!

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