Do I Need a Receipt for Charitable Contribution Less than $250?

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Question from a client: One of the charities I donate to told me that I don’t need a receipt unless I donate $250 in one year…is this true…even if I get audited?

Answer: Yes.

The rules for charitable contributions are as follows:

  1. For gifts less than $250, the donor can prove the donation with things their own documentation, such as a canceled check
  2. For gifts more than $250, the donor needs a receipt from the organization they donated to. But — and this is key — it is the donor’s responsibility to get a receipt.

In practice, most charitable organizations will give a receipt for donations of any dollar amount. But they technically are not required to give a receipt unless the donor asks for it.

In my client’s case, they gave less than $100 to this charity, so they were able to take the deduction by producing documentation showing they made the donation. As mentioned above, that documentation could include things such as canceled checks.

Many people reading this might be surprised to learn that a charity is not required to give a receipt. As always with tax law, there are exceptions. One of those exceptions is if the donor gives more than $75 AND receives good or services in exchange for the donation. Different rules also apply for donations of cars.

What we’re talking about here in this post is just regular old donations of money to a charity. In those cases, it’s the donor who’s responsible for getting the receipt.

In my client’s case, the donation in question was $50. Since the charity wouldn’t give my client a receipt, my client had to make sure they had the canceled check to prove the donation. Because the donation was less than $250, that’s perfectly acceptable documentation in the event of an audit.