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.

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 ),

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.

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.