Gift and Acknowledgment Guidelines

Gift and Acknowledgment Guidelines and Links to IRS Publications. I've tried to capture some of the guidelines and links often asked about by clients and on FundSvcs.

"A charitable contribution is a donation or gift to, or for the use of, a qualified organization. It is voluntary and is made without getting, or expecting to get, anything of equal value." - IRS Publication 526

It is important to recognize the guidelines that donors have for making charitable contributions. By understanding their guidelines we can better understand how we can help them with the documentation of their gifts.

Note that it is the donors obligation for "obtaining a written acknowledgment from a charity for any single contribution of $250 or more." But it is to our benefit in donor relations to provide it.

The chart to the right is in Pub. 526 on Charitable Contributions from the IRS. Other guidelines for volunteers are in this publication.

For contributions over $250, a donor must have a written, "contemporaneous" acknowledgment of the gift. And the IRS provides the guidelines for what must be on the receipt or acknowledgment as noted on the right. (Do you see "date" listed there? Neither do I. Use your "processed" date if you must have a date.)

The IRS does not dictate a form or format. They say, "Letters, postcards, or computer-generated forms with the above information are acceptable."

Their term, "contemporaneous", basically means the donor needs to have the written document by the time they file their taxes.

This information is found in Pub. 1771 - Charitable Contributions - from the IRS. The publication also covers the requirements for quid pro quo contributions.

When we receive gifts other than cash, how are we to value them and acknowledge them to donors?

The IRS discusses this in Pub. 561 Determining the Value of Donated Property. This publication is designed to help donors and appraisers determine the value of property (other than cash) that is given to qualified organizations. It also explains what kind of information the donor must have to support the charitable contribution deduction they claim.

The excerpt from the Table of Contents of the publication shows the types of properties that the guidelines cover.

For articles with an appraised value over $5,000 an IRS Form 8283 is required.

There are a number of other IRS Publications that may be of use for Non-Profit organizations and their Advancement Services operations. These include:
bullet Publication 520.  Scholarships and Fellowships
bullet Publication 557.  Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization

The IRS has dedicated a section of their web site to information, publications, and guidelines for Charities and Exempt Organizations. They have done a good job of organizing the site and making documents downloadable. Links above will take you to their site for obtaining the documents and forms noted. You may wish to explore the site for other publications and related instructions.

I'll be adding other links and references as I see them.

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Created May 22, 2003