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The Latest Rules on Charitable Donations


Charitable contributions are deductible, says the IRS, only if you itemize deductions. And further, they are deductible only if you make contributions to qualified charitable organizations. The tax agency reminds us that contributions to individuals are never deductible.

But how do you know that the charity you are donating to is qualified? The IRS notes that you can determine whether the organization qualifies as a charity for income tax deduction purposes if you refer to the agency's Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.

What if you receive a benefit from the contribution — such as a public TV station offering a DVD of the program you were just watching — or other goods or services? What about obtaining admission to a charity ball or banquet, or receiving tickets to a theatrical performance or sporting event for your donation? The IRS says you only can deduct the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.

And then there's the sticky problem of contributing cash, checks or any other monetary gift —how should you handle this? The tax agency recommends that you maintain a record of the contribution.

  • It can be a bank record or contemporaneous written communication from the qualified organization. It should contain the name of the charity as well as the amount and the date of the contribution.
  • You generally can deduct the fair market value of any other property you donate to qualified organizations.
  • For a contribution of $250 or more — including cash and property — you must obtain and keep in your records a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization that indicates the amount of cash and a description of any property contributed.
  • Make sure that the acknowledgment says whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. If yes, you need to provide a description and a good-faith estimate of the value of those goods or services.
  • A document from the qualified organization may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the contemporaneous written requirement for all contributions of $250 or more.

For a deduction of a noncash contribution that's more than $500, fill out Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and attach it to your tax return. And you'll need a qualified appraisal of the noncash property and must fill out Form 8283, Section B, to claim the deduction for the noncash contribution of property worth more than $5,000.

You also should know that special rules apply for donations of certain types of property that have appreciated in value, including the following:

  • Automobiles.
  • Inventory.
  • Investments.

For more information, you can refer to Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. If you need to determine the value of your noncash contributions, you can take a peek at Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. We're here if you have any questions.


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Our firm provides the information in this e-newsletter for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles in this e-newsletter are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.
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