IRS Publication 1771 says that for any gift over $250, the giver must have written documentation of the gift. That written documentation, according to the Tax Court, must comply with the requirements outlined in Pub 1771:
- It must include the name of the organization and the amount of the donation.
- If the gift is non-cash, it must include a description of the gift (but not its value).
- The verification must be contemporaneous, that is, received before the donor files their income tax for the year or before the date the tax filing is due.
- It must state that “no goods or services were received” for the donation, if that is the case.
- If goods or services were received , it must state the value of those goods and services.
- If the gift was to a religious organization, it must carry the language that “only intangible religious benefits were received,” if that is the case.
Important to remember:
- You can’t change the written documentation after the fact because the new acknowledgement wouldn’t be “contemporaneous.”
- The Tax Court is looking for the exact words described in the IRS code as outlined in Publication 1771.
- If you are a religious 501(c)(3), the IRS considers admission to a religious ceremony or the receiving of wine or bread in the religious ceremony to be a good or service received. Fortunately, receipt of only “intangible religious benefits” doesn’t reduce the amount of the gift that is tax deductible. But, the acknowledgement must include the words that “only intangible religious benefits were received” or it invalidates the tax deductible nature of the gift. (You don’t have to describe what those intangible religious benefits were).