Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 04-10-2002, 10:12 AM
hudley hudley is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 87
Can I deduct charitable contributions without a receipt?

My wife, on two occasions last year, took bags of clothes to Goodwill. Of course she doesnt bother to get a receipt. I didn't care too much since I figured the "worth" of the clothes was negligible and wouldnt add up to but a few dollars off our taxes and might flag us for an audit (nothing to hide, just don't want the hassle). However yesterday I was browsing through software at the store, and see a $20 program for assigning values to contributions using the IRS's own guidelines. Looking at some examples on the box it looks like I have totally undervalued what I can claim as a donation.

I looked at the 1040, and the instructions say that each individual contribution under $250 does not require any special forms. This software says it will give you a receipt that can be used for tax purposes of the individual items you claim to donate. Since all they give you at goodwill is a blank piece of paper to make your own receipt, is this valid for tax purposes? If I get audited and I don't have an actual receipt from Goodwill will my deduction be disallowed, and then have to pay interest on the amount owed?

The IRS instructions say to not file the receipt with your taxes, but to keep a copy for your records.

Does anyone know about this subject? Thanks in advance.
Old 04-10-2002, 10:44 AM
JeffB JeffB is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: San Jose
Posts: 2,931
Disclaimer: I'm not an accountant or tax attorney, but I do work with charitable contributions for a living.

According to IRS Publication 526 - Charitable Contributions (available as a pdf at ),

Deductions of Less Than $250
If you make any noncash contribution, you must get and keep a receipt from the charitable organization showing:
  • [1]The name of the charitable organization,
    [2]The date an location of the charitable contribution, and
    [3]A reasonably detailed description of the property
In addition to the receipt from the charity, you must also maintain your own records, including the fair market value of the items donated.

Cash contributions under $250 generally do not require a receipt as long as you haven't received anything in exchange. This might be what your software was referencing. Under no circumstance can the software provide a "tax receipt" for you. It may be able to provide you with the records that you are required to keep.
Old 04-10-2002, 10:52 AM
Patty O'Furniture Patty O'Furniture is offline
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Bangkok/52/Male
Posts: 8,870
Can you deduct charitable contributions without a receipt?

Yes, you can.

Can you survive being audited without the receipts?

No, you can not.

I deduct several hundred dollars every year, owing to miscellaneous clothing donation, small appliances, etc. and never offer my accountant a receipt. Neither does he ask me for one. I do acknowledge that, should I be audited, I will probably be denied these deductions if I fail to come up with proper receipts. I am willing to take the chance since it is highly unlikely that my measly $500 (compared to my income level) is enough to send up a red flag at the IRS.

The year I donated my driven-into-the-ground 75% rusted-through honda to goodwill for a $3750 deduction, I made sure I got a receipt & made sure that my accountant attached it to the tax forms.


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:13 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017