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In January of 2023 I donated $500 to a charity. I got a donation receipt from PayPal at the time. The subject line says "Receipt for your donation to [...]". However, the bottom of the email says:

"This is a record of your generosity, but it's not an official tax donation receipt."

I didn't get any other receipt. The charity shut down in December of 2023.

Can I take a $500 deduction? The IRS says one can only take a deduction of that size if one has a receipt from the charity itself.

Can I take a $249.99 deduction? The IRS says one can deduct a donation less than $250 with just a bank receipt, which I assume that Paypal receipt qualifies as. But $249.99 isn't the actual amount I donated; it's smaller than what I donated. So I'm not sure if that's legal. Also, would I need to truncate down to $249 instead of $249.99 to avoid rounding up to $250?

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    Yes it was a legit charity. The website had an address and phone number. The charity shows up on Google Maps at that address (now marked closed), and has many reviews on Google Maps going back years. I can see the charity's sign in Google Street View. They're listed on Charity Navigator as a 501(c)(3). Charity Navigator is apparently not up to date, because it doesn't say it's closed there.
    – Buge
    Commented Apr 4 at 5:30
  • I assume you know this already, but for future readers, currently, you can only deduct cash donations if you itemize.
    – TTT
    Commented Apr 7 at 15:21

1 Answer 1

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Contact the charity and ask them to send you a receipt. If they're legitimate they shouldn't have a problem doing that

Note that not all gifts to all charities are tax deductible. Or they may only be partly deductable; if you got some benefit like a tote bag or museum admission the value of that might not be considered part of the gift for tax purposes. This is one of the reasons the IRS wants you to get a receipt: that will tell you how much of the gift you are actually able to write off.

It also may matter exactly which if the group's funds you donated to. Example: gifts to the League of Women Voters as a whole are not deductable because they themselves have some political activity. Gifts specifically to the LWV's Education Fund, which just helps voters understand candidate's positions without expressing an opinion on them, are fully deductible but may be used only for that purpose.

If you're certain it's deductable, you can consider filing without that piece of paper on hand. Evidence is only really needed if they audit you, and an audit is mostly just a nuisance if you haven't actually been trying to cheat.

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    "Contact the charity" isn't necessarily possible when they stopped existing in December 2023. Commented Apr 3 at 15:31
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    @CharlesDuffy Maybe they shut down their charitable operations, but it's recent enough that the donor services are still reachable. It can't hurt to try.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 3 at 15:42
  • The IRS guidance linked by OP says that the acknowledgement must be contemporaneous. While the charity's records are certainly contemporaneous, I'm not sure a receipt issued at this point would be considered so? I do agree that they are unlikely to hold it against OP though, since they can show other evidence that they are not cheating. Commented Apr 3 at 23:54
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    "If you're certain it's deductable, you can consider filing without that piece of paper on hand." But is that legal?
    – Buge
    Commented Apr 4 at 5:01
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    Is it legal? At most it's a civil violation, you pay what they think you owe plus the fine . More likely the fine is a late fee proportional to that amount. More likely still the issue never comes up to unless you are doing something much more serious. Forgetting to feed a parking meter isn't "legal" either, but if you get caught you say "sorry I forgot" and pay the ticket. So, no, filing for it without the proper receipt isn't '"legal", but "The object of the game is to be as honest as the law permits." ... This is one reason I started a DAF; one receipt covers almost all donations.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 5 at 13:43

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