Effective: February 7, 2022
Your Stuff & Your Permissions
When you use our Services, you provide us with things like your files, content, messages, contacts, and so on ("Your Stuff"). Your Stuff is yours. These Terms don’t give us any rights to Your Stuff except for the limited rights that enable us to offer the Services.
We need your permission to do things like hosting Your Stuff, backing it up, and sharing it when you ask us to. Our Services also provide you with features like eSign, file sharing, email newsletters, appointment setting and more. These and other features may require our systems to access, store, and scan Your Stuff. You give us permission to do those things, and this permission extends to our affiliates and trusted third parties we work with.
Sharing Your Stuff
Our Services let you share Your Stuff with others, so please think carefully about what you share.
You’re responsible for your conduct. Your Stuff and you must comply with applicable laws. Content in the Services may be protected by others’ intellectual property rights. Please don’t copy, upload, download, or share content unless you have the right to do so. We may review your conduct and content for compliance with these Terms. With that said, we have no obligation to do so. We aren’t responsible for the content people post and share via the Services.
Help us keep you informed and Your Stuff protected. Safeguard your password to the Services, and keep your account information current. Don’t share your account credentials or give others access to your account.
You may use our Services only as permitted by applicable law, including export control laws and regulations. Finally, to use our Services, you must be at least 13, or in some cases, even older. If you live in France, Germany, or the Netherlands, you must be at least 16. Please check your local law for the age of digital consent. If you don’t meet these age requirements, you may not use the Services.
Some of our Services allow you to download client software (“Software”) which may update automatically. So long as you comply with these Terms, we give you a limited, nonexclusive, nontransferable, revocable license to use the Software, solely to access the Services. To the extent any component of the Software may be offered under an open source license, we’ll make that license available to you and the provisions of that license may expressly override some of these Terms. Unless the following restrictions are prohibited by law, you agree not to reverse engineer or decompile the Services, attempt to do so, or assist anyone in doing so.
We sometimes release products and features that we are still testing and evaluating. Those Services have been marked beta, preview, early access, or evaluation (or with words or phrases with similar meanings) and may not be as reliable as other non-beta services, so please keep that in mind.
The Services are protected by copyright, trademark, and other US and foreign laws. These Terms don’t grant you any right, title, or interest in the Services, others’ content in the Services, CountingWorks and our trademarks, logos and other brand features. We welcome feedback, but note that we may use comments or suggestions without any obligation to you.
We respect the intellectual property of others and ask that you do too. We respond to notices of alleged copyright infringement if they comply with the law, and such notices should be reported to legal@CountingWorks.com. We reserve the right to delete or disable content alleged to be infringing and terminate accounts of repeat infringers. Our designated agent for notice of alleged copyright infringement on the Services is:
You’re free to stop using our Services at any time. We reserve the right to suspend or terminate your access to the Services with notice to you if:
We won’t provide notice before termination where:
Discontinuation of Services
We may decide to discontinue the Services in response to unforeseen circumstances beyond CountingWorks control or to comply with a legal requirement. If we do so, we’ll give you reasonable prior notice so that you can export Your Stuff from our systems.
Services “AS IS”
We strive to provide great Services, but there are certain things that we can't guarantee. TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, CountingWorks AND ITS AFFILIATES, SUPPLIERS AND DISTRIBUTORS MAKE NO WARRANTIES, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, ABOUT THE SERVICES. THE SERVICES ARE PROVIDED "AS IS." WE ALSO DISCLAIM ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, AND NON-INFRINGEMENT. Some places don’t allow the disclaimers in this paragraph, so they may not apply to you.
Limitation of Liability
WE DON’T EXCLUDE OR LIMIT OUR LIABILITY TO YOU WHERE IT WOULD BE ILLEGAL TO DO SO—THIS INCLUDES ANY LIABILITY FOR CountingWorks OR ITS AFFILIATES’ FRAUD OR FRAUDULENT MISREPRESENTATION IN PROVIDING THE SERVICES. IN COUNTRIES WHERE THE FOLLOWING TYPES OF EXCLUSIONS AREN’T ALLOWED, WE'RE RESPONSIBLE TO YOU ONLY FOR LOSSES AND DAMAGES THAT ARE A REASONABLY FORESEEABLE RESULT OF OUR FAILURE TO USE REASONABLE CARE AND SKILL OR OUR BREACH OF OUR CONTRACT WITH YOU. THIS PARAGRAPH DOESN’T AFFECT CONSUMER RIGHTS THAT CAN'T BE WAIVED OR LIMITED BY ANY CONTRACT OR AGREEMENT.
IN COUNTRIES WHERE EXCLUSIONS OR LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY ARE ALLOWED, CountingWorks, ITS AFFILIATES, SUPPLIERS OR DISTRIBUTORS WON’T BE LIABLE FOR:
THESE EXCLUSIONS OR LIMITATIONS WILL APPLY REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT CountingWorks OR ANY OF ITS AFFILIATES HAS BEEN WARNED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.
IF YOU USE THE SERVICES FOR ANY COMMERCIAL, BUSINESS, OR RE-SALE PURPOSE, CountingWorks, ITS AFFILIATES, SUPPLIERS OR DISTRIBUTORS WILL HAVE NO LIABILITY TO YOU FOR ANY LOSS OF PROFIT, LOSS OF BUSINESS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION, OR LOSS OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY. CountingWorks AND ITS AFFILIATES AREN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONDUCT, WHETHER ONLINE OR OFFLINE, OF ANY USER OF THE SERVICES.
Let’s Try To Sort Things Out First. We want to address your concerns without needing a formal legal case. Before filing a claim against CountingWorks or our affiliates, you agree to try to resolve the dispute informally by contacting legal@CountingWorks.com. We’ll try to resolve the dispute informally by contacting you via email.
Judicial forum for disputes. You and CountingWorks agree that any judicial proceeding to resolve claims relating to these Terms or the Services will be brought in the federal or state courts of Orange County, California, subject to the mandatory arbitration provisions below. Both you and CountingWorks consent to venue and personal jurisdiction in such courts. If you reside in a country (for example, European Union member states) with laws that give consumers the right to bring disputes in their local courts, this paragraph doesn’t affect those requirements.
IF YOU’RE A U.S. RESIDENT, YOU ALSO AGREE TO THE FOLLOWING MANDATORY ARBITRATION PROVISIONS:
These Terms will be governed by California law except for its conflicts of laws principles. However, some countries (including those in the European Union) have laws that require agreements to be governed by the local laws of the consumer's country. This paragraph doesn’t override those laws.
These Terms constitute the entire agreement between you and CountingWorks with respect to the subject matter of these Terms, and supersede and replace any other prior or contemporaneous agreements, or terms and conditions applicable to the subject matter of these Terms. These Terms create no third party beneficiary rights.
Waiver, Severability & Assignment
CountingWorks failure to enforce a provision is not a waiver of its right to do so later. If a provision is found unenforceable, the remaining provisions of the Terms will remain in full effect and an enforceable term will be substituted reflecting our intent as closely as possible. You may not assign any of your rights under these Terms, and any such attempt will be void. CountingWorks may assign its rights to any of its affiliates or subsidiaries, or to any successor in interest of any business associated with the Services.
We may revise these Terms from time to time to better reflect:
If an update affects your use of the Services or your legal rights as a user of our Services, we’ll notify you prior to the update's effective date by sending an email to the email address associated with your account or via an in-product notification. These updated terms will be effective no less than 30 days from when we notify you.
If you don’t agree to the updates we make, please cancel your account before they become effective. By continuing to use or access the Services after the updates come into effect, you agree to be bound by the revised Terms.
Effective: February 7, 2022
Thanks for visiting our website. Our mission is to create a web based experience that makes it easier for us to work together. Here we describe how we collect, use, and handle your personal information when you use our websites, software, and services (“Services”).
What & Why
We collect and use the following information to provide, improve, and protect our Services:
Account information. We collect, and associate with your account, the information you provide to us when you do things such as sign up for your account, opt-in to our client newsletter or request an appointment (like your name, email address, phone number, and physical address). Some of our Services let you access your accounts and your information via other service providers.
Your Stuff. Our Services are designed to make it simple for you to store your files, documents, comments, messages, and so on (“Your Stuff”), collaborate with others, and work across multiple devices. To make that possible, we store, process, and transmit Your Stuff as well as information related to it. This related information includes your profile information that makes it easier to collaborate and share Your Stuff with others, as well as things like the size of the file, the time it was uploaded, collaborators, and usage activity. Our Services provide you with different options for sharing Your Stuff.
Contacts. You may choose to give us access to your contacts (spouse or other company staff) to make it easy for you to do things like share and collaborate on Your Stuff, send messages, and invite others to use the Services. If you do, we’ll store those contacts on our servers for you to use.
Usage information. We collect information related to how you use the Services, including actions you take in your account (like sharing, viewing, and moving files or folders). We use this information to improve our Services, develop new services and features, and protect our users.
Cookies and other technologies. We use technologies like cookies to provide, improve, protect, and promote our Services. For example, cookies help us with things like remembering your username for your next visit, understanding how you are interacting with our Services, and improving them based on that information. You can set your browser to not accept cookies, but this may limit your ability to use the Services.
Marketing. We give users the option to use some of our Services free of charge. These free Services are made possible by the fact that some users upgrade to one of our paid Services. If you register for our free Services, we will, from time to time, send you information about the firm or tax and accounting tips when permissible. Users who receive these marketing materials can opt out at any time. If you do not want to receive marketing materials from us, simply click the ‘unsubscribe’ link in any email.
We sometimes contact people who do not have an account. For recipients in the EU, we or a third party will obtain consent before contacting you. If you receive an email and no longer wish to be contacted by us, you can unsubscribe and remove yourself from our contact list via the message itself.
Bases for processing your data. We collect and use the personal data described above in order to provide you with the Services in a reliable and secure manner. We also collect and use personal data for our legitimate business needs. To the extent we process your personal data for other purposes, we ask for your consent in advance or require that our partners obtain such consent.
We may share information as discussed below, but we won’t sell it to advertisers or other third parties.
Other users. Our Services display information like your name, profile picture, device, and email address to other users in places like your user profile and sharing notifications. You can also share Your Stuff with other users if you choose. When you register your account with an email address on a domain owned by your employer or organization, we may help collaborators and administrators find you and your workspace by making some of your basic information—like your name, workspace name, profile picture, and email address—visible to other users on the same domain. This helps you sync up with workspaces you can join and helps other users share files and folders with you. Certain features let you make additional information available to others.
Workspace Admins. If you are a user of a workspace, your administrator may have the ability to access and control your workspace account. Please refer to your organization’s internal policies if you have questions about this. If you are not a workspace user but interact with a workspace user (by, for example, joining a shared folder or accessing stuff shared by that user), members of that organization may be able to view the name, email address, profile picture, and IP address that was associated with your account at the time of that interaction.
Law & Order and the Public Interest. We may disclose your information to third parties if we determine that such disclosure is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with any applicable law, regulation, legal process, or appropriate government request; (b) protect any person from death or serious bodily injury; (c) prevent fraud or abuse of our platform or our users; (d) protect our rights, property, safety, or interest; or (e) perform a task carried out in the public interest.
Stewardship of your data is critical to us and a responsibility that we embrace. We believe that your data should receive the same legal protections regardless of whether it’s stored on our Services or on your home computer’s hard drive. We’ll abide by Government Request Policies when receiving, scrutinizing, and responding to government requests (including national security requests) for your data:
Security. We have a team dedicated to keeping your information secure and testing for vulnerabilities. We also continue to work on features to keep your information safe in addition to things like blocking repeated login attempts, encryption of files at rest, and alerts when new devices and apps are linked to your account. We deploy automated technologies to detect abusive behavior and content that may harm our Services, you, or other users.
User Controls. You can access, amend, download, and delete your personal information by logging into your account.
Retention. When you sign up for an account with us, we’ll retain information you store on our Services for as long as your account is in existence or as long as we need it to provide you the Services. If you delete your account, we will initiate deletion of this information after 30 days. But please note: (1) there might be some latency in deleting this information from our servers and back-up storage; and (2) we may retain this information if necessary to comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes, or enforce our agreements.
Around the world. To provide you with the Services, we may store, process, and transmit information in the United States and locations around the world—including those outside your country. Information may also be stored locally on the devices you use to access the Services.
EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield. When transferring data from the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland, We rely upon a variety of legal mechanisms, including contracts with our customers and affiliates. We comply with the EU-U.S. and Swiss–U.S. Privacy Shield Frameworks as set forth by the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the collection, use, and retention of personal information transferred from the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland to the United States.
We are subject to oversight by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. JAMS is the US-based independent organization responsible for reviewing and resolving complaints about our Privacy Shield compliance—free of charge to you. We ask that you first submit any such complaints directly to us via privacy@CountingWorks.com. If you aren’t satisfied with our response, please contact JAMS at https://www.jamsadr.com/eu-us-privacy-shield. In the event your concern still isn’t addressed by JAMS, you may be entitled to a binding arbitration under Privacy Shield and its principles.
If we are involved in a reorganization, merger, acquisition, or sale of our assets, your information may be transferred as part of that deal.
Your Right to Control and Access Your Information
You have control over your personal information and how it is collected, used, and shared. For example, you have a right to:
Your personal information is controlled by CountingWorks, Inc. Have questions or concerns about CountingWorks, our Services, and privacy? Contact our Data Protection Officer at privacy@CountingWorks.com. If they can’t answer your question, you have the right to contact your local data protection supervisory authority.
Third Party Vendors
Amazon Web Services
Updated: June 2020.
strives to ensure that its services are accessible to people with disabilities. has invested a significant amount of resources to help ensure that its website is made easier to use and more accessible for people with disabilities, with the strong belief that every person has the right to live with dignity, equality, comfort and independence.
makes available the UserWay Website Accessibility Widget that is powered by a dedicated accessibility server. The software allows us to improve its compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1).
Enabling the Accessibility Menu
The accessibility menu can be enabled either by hitting the tab key when the page first loads or by clicking the accessibility menu icon that appears on the corner of the page. After triggering the accessibility menu, please wait a moment for the accessibility menu to load in its entirety.
continues its efforts to constantly improve the accessibility of its site and services in the belief that it is our collective moral obligation to allow seamless, accessible and unhindered use also for those of us with disabilities.
In an ongoing effort to continually improve and remediate accessibility issues, we also regularly scan with UserWay's Accessibility Scanner to identify and fix every possible accessibility barrier on our site. Despite our efforts to make all pages and content on fully accessible, some content may not have yet been fully adapted to the strictest accessibility standards. This may be a result of not having found or identified the most appropriate technological solution.
Here For You
If you are experiencing difficulty with any content on or require assistance with any part of our site, please contact us during normal business hours as detailed below and we will be happy to assist.
If you wish to report an accessibility issue, have any questions or need assistance, please contact customer support.
We keep you up-to-date with all the latest tax news and changes in the industry.
Charitable Itemized Deductions
Qualified Charitable Distributions
Household Goods and Used Clothing
Documenting Charitable Contributions
Your charitable contributions include a wide variety of tax-saving opportunities, some you may not be aware of and some that are frequently overlooked. And there are some contributions that you may believe are deductible that really are not. Being knowledgeable of what is and is not a qualified charity, a qualified charitable contribution, and charitable giving strategies can go a long way towards maximizing your charitable tax deduction.
To be deductible the contributions must be made to qualified charitable organizations, which generally only include U.S. nonprofit groups that are religious, charitable, educational, scientific, or literary in purpose, or that work to prevent cruelty to children or animals. You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization, and most will be able to tell you. You can also check by going to IRS.gov/TEOS. This online tool will enable you to search for qualified organizations.
Also, to be able to deduct charitable contributions, one must itemize their deductions. This means that to achieve any tax benefit from your charitable donations, you cannot use the standard deduction, which for example is $12,950 for those filing single, $19,400 filing head of household and $25,900 for married individuals filing jointly for 2022. The standard deduction is adjusted annually for inflation.
If the total of all your itemized deductions does not exceed the standard deduction amount for the year, then you are better off taking the standard deduction, but in doing so, you will get no tax benefit from your charitable contributions. Congress did revise the law to allow limited amounts of cash contributions made in 2020 and 2021 to be deducted without itemizing, but this was only a temporary provision and doesn’t apply in other years.
Bunching – If your charitable deductions are not enough to bring your itemized deductions greater than your standard deduction, the bunching strategy may work for you. When employing the bunching strategy, a taxpayer essentially doubles up on as many deductions as possible in one year, with the goal of itemizing deductions in one year and then taking the standard deduction in the following year. Because charitable contributions are entirely payable at your discretion, they fit right into the bunching strategy.
For example, if you normally tithe at your church, you could make your normal contributions throughout the current year and then prepay the entire subsequent year’s tithing in a lump sum in December of the current year, thereby doubling up on the church contribution in one year and having no charity deduction for church in the next year. Normally, charities are very active with their solicitations during the holiday season, giving you the opportunity to decide whether to make contributions at the end of the current year or simply wait a short time and make them after the end of the year. Be sure you get a receipt or acknowledgment letter from the organization that clearly shows the year when the contribution was made.
As a rule, most taxpayers just wait until tax time to add up their potential deductions and then use the higher of the standard deduction or their itemized deductions. If you want to be more proactive, here are some strategies that might work for you.
Qualified Charitable Distribution – If you are age 70.5 or older, you can make charitable contributions by transferring funds from your IRA account to a charity, which are referred to as qualified charitable distributions (QCDs). The only hitch here is the funds must be transferred directly from the IRA to the charity, meaning your IRA trustee will have to make the distribution to the charity. The tax rules don’t set a minimum amount that needs to be transferred but your IRA trustee may do so. The maximum of all such transfers is $100,000 per year, per taxpayer. Also note that distributions to private foundations and donor-advised funds don’t qualify for the QCD.
Thus, this strategy allows you to make a charitable contribution without itemizing deductions; since these distributions are tax-free, you can’t also claim a deduction for them. Even better, QCDs also count toward your minimum required distribution for the year. Because QCDs are nontaxable, your AGI will be lower, and you can benefit from tax provisions that are pegged to AGI, such as the amount of Social Security income that’s taxable and the cost of Medicare B insurance premiums for higher-income taxpayers.
Caution: Any IRA contributions made after reaching age 70.5 can diminish the tax benefits of this strategy. If any post-age 70.5 IRA contributions have been made, consult with this office before employing this strategy.
If you decide to make a QCD, check with your IRA custodian on the IRA’s rules for how to request the QCD and be sure to give the IRA custodian ample time to complete the process if you are making the request toward the end of the year. Always get a written acknowledgment from the charity, for tax-reporting purposes.
Donor-Advised Funds – Contributing to a donor-advised fund is a way to make a large (and generally deductible) charitable contribution in one year and put funds aside to satisfy the donor’s social obligations to make charitable contributions in future years, without incurring the expenses of setting up a private foundation and satisfying annual filing and other private foundation requirements.
While generally considered a tax strategy for those with an unusually high income for the year, donor-advised funds are available to everyone, although most such funds set up through brokerages have minimum donation requirements, often $5,000–$25,000. Although they may bear the donor's name, donor-advised funds are not separate entities but are mere bookkeeping entries. They are components of a qualified charitable organization. A contribution to a charity's donor-advised fund may be deductible in the year when it is made if it isn't considered earmarked for a particular distributee. The charity must fully own the funds and have ultimate control over their distribution. To document the contribution, the taxpayer must get written acknowledgement from the fund's sponsoring organization that it has exclusive legal control over the contributed assets. Although the donor can advise the charity, which generally will follow the donor’s recommendations, the donor cannot have the power to select distributees or decide the timing or amounts of distributions. The charity must also ensure that all distributions from the fund are arm’s length and do not directly or indirectly benefit the donor.
Example: Don and Shirley donate $25,000 to a donor-advised fund in one year. The $25,000 can be in the form of cash or even appreciated stock. Don and Shirley get a deduction for the full $25,000 as a charitable contribution on their return for the year of the contribution and can suggest the amounts of distributions from the donor-advised fund that should be made to various charities over a number of years. Thus, Don and Shirley achieve a large charitable contribution in one year that can be used to fund their charitable obligations over several years and can claim the $25,000 as an itemized deduction on their return for the year when they made the donation. They do not get a charitable contribution deduction when the funds are paid out from the fund to the various charities.
Volunteer Expenses - If you volunteered your time for a charity or governmental entity, you probably qualify for some tax breaks. Although no tax deduction is allowed for the value of services performed for a qualified charity or federal, state or local governmental agency, some deductions are permitted for out-of-pocket costs incurred while performing the services. The following are some examples:
Away-from-home travel expenses while performing services for a charity, including out-of-pocket round-trip travel costs, taxi fares, and other costs of transportation between the airport or station and hotel, plus 100% of lodging and meals. These expenses are only deductible if there is no significant element of personal pleasure associated with the travel or if your services for a charity do not involve lobbying activities.
The cost of entertaining others on behalf of a charity, such as wining and dining a potential large contributor (but the costs of your own entertainment and meals are not deductible).
If you use your car or other vehicle while performing services for a charitable organization, you may deduct your actual unreimbursed expenses that are directly attributable to the services, such as gas and oil costs, or you may deduct a flat 14 cents per mile for the charitable use of your car. You may also deduct parking fees and tolls.
You can deduct the cost of the uniform you wear when doing volunteer work for the charity, as long as the uniform has no general utility. The cost of cleaning the uniform can also be deducted.
Misconceptions - There are some misconceptions as to what constitutes a charitable deduction, and the following are frequently encountered issues:
No deduction is allowed for contributions of cash or property to the extent the donor received a personal benefit from the donation. Often, the IRS attributes at least some (if not total) personal benefit to amounts spent for items like dinner tickets, church school tuition, YMCA dues, raffles, etc. To determine the allowed contribution amount, subtract the FMV of the “personal benefit” item from the cost and deduct the remainder. Most charities now allocate the deductible, nondeductible portions.
Taxpayers who have purchased tickets for benefit football games, youth-group car washes, parish pancake breakfasts, school plays, etc., with no intention of attending these events, may think they can deduct the expense as a direct contribution to the sponsoring institution. The IRS does not allow such deductions. On the other hand, if the taxpayer returns the ticket to the organization for resale and does not receive a refund of the cost of the ticket, the entire amount paid for the ticket is deductible.
No deduction is allowed for the depreciation of vehicles, computers or other capital assets as a charitable deduction.
Example: Kathy volunteers as a member of the sheriff’s mounted search and rescue team. As part of volunteering, Kathy is required to provide a horse. Kathy is not allowed to deduct the cost of purchasing her horse or to depreciate the value of her horse. She can, however, deduct uniforms, travel, and other out-of-pocket expenses associated with the volunteer work.
However, a taxpayer may deduct the cost of maintaining a personally owned asset to the extent that its use is related to providing services for a charity. Thus, for example, a taxpayer is allowed to deduct the fuel, maintenance, and repair costs (but not depreciation or the fair rental value) of piloting his or her plane in connection with volunteer activities for the Civil Air Patrol. Similarly, a taxpayer—such as Kathy in our example, who participated in a mounted posse that is a civilian reserve unit of the county sheriff’s office—could deduct the cost of maintaining a horse (shoeing and stabling).
A taxpayer who buys an asset and uses it while performing volunteer services for a charity can’t deduct its cost if he or she retains ownership of it. That’s true even if the asset is used exclusively for charitable purposes.
No charitable deduction is allowed for a contribution of $250 or more unless you substantiate the contribution with a written acknowledgment from the charitable organization (including a government agency). To verify your contribution:
Get written documentation from the charity about the nature of your volunteering activity and the need for related expenses to be paid. For example, if you travel out of town as a volunteer, request a letter from the charity explaining why you’re needed at the out-of-town location.
You should submit a statement of expenses to the charity if you are paying out of pocket for substantial amounts, preferably with a copy of the receipts. Then, arrange for the charity to acknowledge the amount of the contribution in writing.
Maintain detailed records of your out-of-pocket expenses—receipts plus a written record of the time, place, amount, and charitable purpose of the expense.
Household Goods and Used Clothing - One of the most common tax-deductible charitable contributions encountered is that of household goods and used clothing. The major complication of this type of contribution is establishing the dollar value of the contribution. According to the tax code, this is the fair market value (FMV), which is defined as the value that a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for the item. FMV is not always easily determined and varies significantly based upon the condition of the item donated. For example, compare the condition of an article of clothing you purchased and only wore once to that of one that has been worn many times. The almost new one certainly will be worth more, but if the hardly worn item had been purchased a few years ago and has become grossly out of style, the more extensively used piece of clothing could be worth more. In either case, the clothing article is still a used item, so its value cannot be anywhere near as high as the original cost. Determining this value is not an exact science. The IRS recognizes this issue and in some cases requires the value to be established by a qualified appraiser.
Remember that when establishing FMV, any value you claim can be challenged in an audit and that the burden of proof is with you (the taxpayer), not with the IRS. For substantial noncash donations, it might be appropriate for you to visit your charity’s local thrift shop or even a consignment store to get an idea of the FMV of used items.
The next big issue is documenting your contribution. Many taxpayers believe that the doorknob hanger left by the charity’s pickup driver is sufficient proof of a donation. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as a United States Tax Court case (Kunkel T.C. Memo 2015-71) pointed out. In that case, the court denied the taxpayer’s charitable contributions, which were based solely upon doorknob hangers left by the drivers who picked up the donated items for the charities. The court stated that “these doorknob hangers are undated; they are not specific to petitioners; they do not describe the property contributed; and they contain none of the other required information.”
Documenting Charitable Contributions – The IRS provides requirements for documenting both cash and non-cash contributions.
Cash Contributions – Taxpayers cannot deduct a cash contribution, regardless of the amount, unless they can document the contribution in one of the following ways:
A bank record that shows the name of the qualified organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution. Bank records may include:
a. A canceled check,
b. A bank or credit union statement, or
c. A credit card statement.
A receipt (or a letter or other written communication) from the qualified organization showing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.
Payroll deduction records.
Cash Contributions of $250 or More – To claim a deduction for a contribution of $250 or more, the taxpayer must have a written acknowledgment of the contribution from the qualified organization that includes the following details:
The amount of cash contributed;
Whether the qualified organization gave the taxpayer goods or services (other than certain token items and membership benefits) as a result of the contribution, and a description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services that were provided (other than intangible religious benefits); and
A statement that the only benefit received was an intangible religious benefit, if that was the case.
If the acknowledgment does not show the date of the contribution, then the taxpayer must have one of the bank records described above that does show the contribution date. If the acknowledgment includes the contribution date and meets the other tests, it is not necessary to also have other records.
The acknowledgment must be in the taxpayer’s hands before the earlier of the date the return for the year the contribution was made is filed, or the due date, including extensions, for filing the return.
Noncash Contributions Deductions of Less Than $250 - A taxpayer claiming a noncash contribution with a value under $250 must keep a receipt from the charitable organization that shows:
The name of the charitable organization,
The date and location of the charitable contribution, and
A reasonably detailed description of the property.
The taxpayer is not required to have a receipt if it is impractical to get one (for example, if the property was left at a charity’s unattended drop site).
Noncash Contributions Deductions of At Least $250 But Not More Than $500 - If a taxpayer claims a deduction of at least $250 but not more than $500 for a noncash charitable contribution, he or she must keep an acknowledgment of the contribution from the qualified organization. If the deduction includes more than one contribution of $250 or more, the taxpayer must have either a separate acknowledgment for each donation or a single acknowledgment that shows the total contribution. The acknowledgment(s) must be written and must include:
The name of the charitable organization,
The date and location of the charitable contribution,
A reasonably detailed description of any property contributed (but not necessarily its value), and
Whether the qualified organization gave the taxpayer any goods or services because of the contribution (other than certain token items and membership benefits).
Noncash Contributions Deductions Over $500 But Not Over $5,000 - If a taxpayer claims a deduction over $500 but not over $5,000 for a noncash charitable contribution, he or she must attach a completed Form 8283 to the income tax return and must provide the same acknowledgement and written records that are required for contributions of at least $250 but not more than $500 (as described above). In addition, the records must also include:
How the property was obtained (for example, purchase, gift, bequest, inheritance, or exchange),
The approximate date the property was obtained or—if created, produced, or manufactured by the taxpayer—the approximate date when the property was substantially completed, and
The cost or other basis, and any adjustments to this basis, for property held for less than 12 months and (if available) the cost or other basis for property held for 12 months or more (this requirement, however, does not apply to publicly traded securities).
If the taxpayer has a reasonable case for not being able to provide information on either the date the property was obtained or the cost basis of the property, he or she can attach a statement of explanation to the return.
Deductions Over $5,000 – These donations require time-sensitive appraisals by a “qualified appraiser” in addition to other documentation. When contemplating such a donation, please call this office for further guidance about the documentation and forms that will be needed.
Caution: The value of similar items of property that are donated in the same year must be combined when determining what level of documentation is needed. Similar items of property are items of the same generic category or type, such as coin collections, paintings, books, clothing, jewelry, privately traded stock, land, and buildings. For example, say you donated $5,300 of used furniture to 3 different charitable organizations during the year (a bedroom set valued at $800, a dining set worth $1,000, and living room furniture worth $3,500). Because the value of the donations of similar property (furniture) exceeds $5,000, you would need to obtain an appraisal of the furniture to satisfy the substantiation requirements—even if you donated the furniture to different organizations and at different times during the year. The IRS has strict rules as to who is considered a qualified appraiser.
Do not include items of de minimis value, such as undergarments and socks, in the deductible amount of your contribution, as they specifically are not allowed.
Please give this office a call if you have questions or would like to develop a charitable contribution strategy.
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