According to the 2019 Giving USA report, Americans gave a total of $427.71 billion to charity in 2018, with the largest source of giving coming from individuals (https://www.nptrust.org/philanthropic-resources/charitable-giving-statistics/). While charitable giving offers a chance to make a difference in organizations you care about, there are also tax benefits if you itemize. However, the IRS has clear substantiation requirements, depending on the nature and amount of the donation. For example, if a single donation is $250 or more, you will need a written acknowledgment from the charity, as a canceled check is not sufficient. Also, all charitable documentation must be in possession when your tax return is filed, also known as a contemporaneous receipt.
General Rules for Charitable Contributions
For all cash contributions, whether made by cash or check, a bank record or written communication from the donee organization showing its name, the date, and the amount of the contribution is required, although specific requirements are following for various contribution amounts. For any non-cash contributions a receipt from the donee organization is required, showing the organization’s name, the date, and the location of the contribution, as well as a detailed description of the items donated. All acknowledgements or receipts should have a description of the value of goods and services provided, or a statement that “no goods and services have been provided”.
Although the value of services you perform for a charitable organization are not deductible, some deductions are permitted for out‐of‐pocket costs you incur while performing the services. You should keep track of your expenses, the services you performed, when you performed them, and the organization for whom you performed the services. Keep receipts, canceled checks, and other reliable written records relating to the services and expenses. Mileage while performing charitable services are deductible on your return at a rate of $0.14 per mile. As discussed above, a written receipt is required for contributions of $250 or more. This could pose a problem for out‐of-pocket expenses incurred while providing charitable services since the charity does not know how much those expenses were. However, you can satisfy the written receipt requirement with adequate records that substantiate the amount of your expenditures including; a statement from the charity that contains a description of the services you provided, the date the services were provided, and a statement of whether the organization provided any goods or services in return.
Substantiation requirements are outlined below in a handy chart.