Are your donations ready for an IRS audit?


A man trying to explain what he wants to sayWhen you claim a tax deduction for donating to a charity, the IRS requires that you substantiate it. The type of proof depends on the amount you contributed and whether it’s cash or noncash property, like artwork.

This table provides a quick overview of the rules.

Amount Contributed
Proof Required
Cash (less than $250)Keep one of the following:
  • A canceled check
  • A receipt from the charity
  • Some other written record

If you make separate contributions to a charity in the same taxable year, the amounts are not combined. For example, if you donate $100 every month to a charity, you can avoid the substantiation requirement for contributions of $250 or more, even though the total gift is $1,200 for the tax year.

Noncash Property (less than $250)Keep a written receipt from the charity showing:
  • Name of the charity
  • Date and location of the contribution
  • Description of the property donated

The receipt does not need to include the noncash property’s value.

Cash or Noncash Property ($250 or more)You need to get written acknowledgment from the charity on or before the earlier of: April 15th of the year following the gift, or October 15th of the year following the gift if you file an income tax extension.

If you file your return without getting an acknowledgement from the charity, your charitable income tax deduction will likely be disallowed and you’ll likely be prohibited from obtaining it later to defend the deduction if audited.

Keep written acknowledgment from the charity showing:

  • Amount of cash, or a description of noncash property that is contributed
  • Confirmation that you did not provide any goods or services in consideration of the contributed property, or alternatively, if goods and services were provided, include a description and a good faith estimate of the value of those goods and services
Noncash Property ($500 to $5,000)The rules for noncash property less than $500 apply, and you also must keep the following records:
  • If you bought the noncash property, the manner and approximate date of acquisition
  • If you made the noncash property, the approximate date of completion
  • For noncash property other than publicly-traded securities, the adjusted basis of the property2
  • A record of you filing IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, with your tax return
Noncash Property
($5,000 or more)
Add up all noncash property contributions to find out if you exceed the $5,000 threshold for the tax year, even if you donate similar items to a variety of different charities. For example, if you donate $2,500 of artwork to five different charities, the total of $12,500 exceeds the $5,000 threshold.

The rules for noncash property less than $5,000 apply, and you also must get a qualified appraisal for all noncash property that is contributed for the tax year.

You’ll need to complete an appraisal summary (Section B of IRS Form 8283) and have the qualified appraiser sign this form. This needs to be completed within 60 days of the contribution and before your filing deadline. Make sure that you keep the actual appraisal and a copy of your tax return with your other important papers in case of an audit.

Know the rules

Make sure you review the charitable gift substantiation rules before making a charitable contribution. Specific IRS Code details when and how charitable gifts must be substantiated. Failure to get proper records in a timely manner may prevent you from receiving the tax deduction when you file your return. As always, consult your tax advisor for guidance related to your personal situation.

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