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Charitable donation records: What you need for your 2017 return

If you contributed to charity in 2017, you can generally deduct the full amount on your tax return with one caveat: You must have the records to back up your claims in case the IRS comes calling. If you donated money, the documentation is fairly simple. But special rules apply if you donated property or you received benefits in return for your gift.

Monetary contributions
For monetary contributions, such as gifts by check or credit and debit card, you must have a bank record or written communication from a qualified charitable organization showing the:

  • Amount of the contribution
  • Date of the contribution
  • Name of the organization

Also, you must obtain a written acknowledgment from a charity for any gift of $250 or more.

Property contributions
Gifts of property often require extra tax return work. If the property increased in value from the day you purchased it and you've owned it for longer than a year, you can deduct the fair market value of the property on the date of the donation. Otherwise, your deduction is generally limited to what you paid for the item.

Donations of property valued above $500 require a description of the donated property attached to your return. If the gift is valued at more than $5,000, you'll need to provide an independent appraiser's summary.

If you received benefits in return for your gift
Sometimes you may make a contribution and receive a benefit in return. With these "quid quo pro" contributions, you can deduct only the difference between the contribution amount and the value of the benefit. Suppose that you and your spouse attended a fundraising dinner that cost you $200 in total. The charity states that the meals were valued at $80, so your deduction is limited to $120 ($200 - $80 = $120).

Don't miss out on claiming the charitable donations you're entitled to deduct on your 2017 return — but be sure you have the proof you need. Give us a call if you have questions.

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