The following sections are reproduced from the guidance on the IRS website (see link to the IRS website at the bottom of the page).
Records To Keep
You must keep records to prove the amount of the contributions you make during the year. The kind of records you must keep depends on the amount of your contributions and whether they are:
- Cash contributions,
- Noncash contributions, or
- Out-of-pocket expenses when donating your services.
Cash contributions include payments made by cash, check, electronic funds transfer, online payment service, debit card, credit card, payroll deduction, or a transfer of a gift card redeemable for cash.
You can’t deduct a cash contribution, regardless of the amount, unless you keep one of the following.
1. A bank record that shows the name of the qualified organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution. Bank records may include:
- A canceled check.
- A bank or credit union statement.
- A credit card statement.
- An electronic fund transfer receipt.
- A scanned image of both sides of a canceled check obtained from a bank or credit union website.
2. A receipt (or a letter or other written communication such as an e-mail) from the qualified organization showing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.
3. The payroll deduction records described next.
If you make a contribution by payroll deduction, you must keep:
- A pay stub, Form W-2, or other document furnished by your employer that shows the date and amount of the contribution; and
- A pledge card or other document prepared by or for the qualified organization that shows the name of the organization.
If your employer withheld $250 or more from a single paycheck, see Contributions of $250 or More next.
Contributions of $250 or More
You can claim a deduction for a contribution of $250 or more only if you have a contemporaneous written acknowledgment of your contribution from the qualified organization or certain payroll deduction records. See Contemporaneous written acknowledgement, later, for a description of when a written acknowledgement is considered “contemporaneous” with your contribution.
If you made more than one contribution of $250 or more, you must have either a separate acknowledgment for each or one acknowledgment that lists each contribution and the date of each contribution and shows your total contributions.
Amount of contribution. In figuring whether your contribution is $250 or more, don’t combine separate contributions. For example, if you gave your church $25 each week, your weekly payments don’t have to be combined. Each payment is a separate contribution.
If contributions are made by payroll deduction, the deduction from each paycheck is treated as a separate contribution.
If you made a payment that is partly for goods and services, as described earlier under Contributions From Which You Benefit, your contribution is the amount of the payment that is more than the value of the goods and services.
The acknowledgment must meet these tests.
1. It must be written.
2. It must include:
- The amount of cash you contributed,
- Whether the qualified organization gave you any goods or services as a result of your contribution (other than certain token items and membership benefits),
- A description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services described in (b) (other than intangible religious benefits), and
- A statement that the only benefit you received was an intangible religious benefit, if that was the case. The acknowledgment doesn’t need to describe or estimate the value of an intangible religious benefit. An intangible religious benefit is a benefit that generally isn’t sold in commercial transactions outside a donative (gift) context.
An example is admission to a religious ceremony.
3. You must get it on or before the earlier of:
- The date you file your return for the year you make the contribution; or
- The due date, including extensions, for filing the return.
If the acknowledgment doesn’t show the date of the contribution, you must also have a bank record or receipt, as described earlier, that does show the date of the contribution. If the acknowledgment shows the date of the contribution and meets the other tests just described, you don’t need any other records.
Contemporaneous written acknowledgment. Organizations typically send written acknowledgements to donors no later than January 31 of the year following the donation. For the written acknowledgement to be considered contemporaneous with the contribution it must meet test (3) under Acknowledgement, earlier.
If you make a contribution by payroll deduction and your employer withholds $250 or more from a single paycheck, you must keep:
- A pay stub, Form W-2, or other document furnished by your employer that shows the amount withheld as a contribution; and
- A pledge card or other document prepared by or for the qualified organization that shows the name of the organization and states the organization doesn’t provide goods or services in return for any contribution made to it by payroll deduction.
A single pledge card may be kept for all contributions made by payroll deduction regardless of amount as long as it contains all the required information.
If the pay stub, Form W-2, pledge card, or other document doesn’t show the date of the contribution, you must have another document that does show the date of the contribution. If the pay stub, Form W-2, pledge card, or other document shows the date of the contribution, you don’t need any other records except those just described in (1) and (2).
Note: The above sections are reproduced from the IRS guidance available at: https://www.irs.gov/publications/p526#en_US_2018_publink1000229833.