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In 2013 I made a donation to a charity. In early 2014, I included a copy of the donation receipt with all the paperwork I sent to my CPA. When he filed my 2013 tax return, he forgot to deduct the donation on Schedule A. I asked him about it, and he told me to just keep the receipt and he could deduct it on my 2014 return.

Is that true? Can I deduct a charitable donation I made in 2013 on my 2014 tax return?

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    Just to be clear, you did not reach your maximum deduction limit in 2013? (I wonder if he is confusing the carryover rule here.) – Joe Mar 16 '15 at 15:14
  • @Joe No I'm pretty sure that's not the case. But I think that would be a good answer to add. – pacoverflow Mar 16 '15 at 15:21
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To the best of my understanding, the CPA is wrong. You can only deduct the contributions in the year you made them.

From the IRC Sec 170:

There shall be allowed as a deduction any charitable contribution (as defined in subsection (c)) payment of which is made within the taxable year. A charitable contribution shall be allowable as a deduction only if verified under regulations prescribed by the Secretary.

A discussion on the topic on the Intuit's Turbo Tax forums:

As with all itemized deductions, timing is everything. You can take the deduction for your contribution in the year that you make it.

If the amounts are substantial, you can amend the return for that year and claim the additional deduction. If it is indeed the CPA's omission, I'd expect him to prepare the amended return for you at no charge.

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    +1 Indeed, it might be worthwhile finding a different CPA (with a better understanding of tax law) to prepare the 2014 return. Omitting to take a deduction to which one is entitled on the 2013 return is inconsequential (except for having overpaid tax); claiming a 2013 charitable donation as a deduction on the 2014 return is filing a fraudulent return and perjury (since the taxpayer's signature declares that everything on the return is correct, under penalties for perjury). – Dilip Sarwate Mar 16 '15 at 9:07
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    @DilipSarwate "since the taxpayer's signature declares that everything on the return is correct, under penalties for perjury" Would I be the one liable or the preparer? After all the CPA is the tax expert, not me. – pacoverflow Mar 16 '15 at 13:33
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    @pacoverflow According to the IRS, you are liable. Your CPA might also be liable for fraud (and likely would lose his or her certification), but it's your return. (Otherwise, it would be easy for people to avoid tax evasion charges by simply saying they didn't know anything about it...) – Joe Mar 16 '15 at 15:19
  • If a year-end donation isn't included on a tax return, what would determine whether it would need to be regarded as belonging to the previous or succeeding year? If someone who lives in New York but is visiting a friend in Wisconsin makes a donation on Jan 1 2014 12:30am local time on a Colorado web site for a California charity, would that be a 2013 or 2014 donation, or could it be claimed as either? What if it were 11:30pm or 1:30am local time? – supercat Mar 16 '15 at 19:25
  • @pacoverflow So tell your CPA you want your money back or you'll rat him out for fraud and make him lose his certification, then use that money to hire a different CPA... – Michael Mar 17 '15 at 4:04
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You can't take deductions made in one year and apply them to a different year. I find it odd that your CPA would suggest otherwise.

What you can do is file an amended return for the year that the deduction should have taken place (2013, in your case) which includes the deduction. The form for that is 1040X. These forms don't go through the usual automatic processing system, so they can take a little longer than typical tax returns. But it'll get the tax situation all reconciled.

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You cannot carry forward deductions you forgot in a prior tax year; but you can carryover deductions that exceeded your maximum deduction limit. As in Publication 17/2014/Chp. 24:

You can deduct your contributions only in the year you actually make them in cash or other property (or in a later carryover year, as explained later under Carryovers ). This applies whether you use the cash or an accrual method of accounting.

Carryovers are covered later in that document:

Carryovers

You can carry over any contributions you cannot deduct in the current year because they exceed your adjusted-gross-income limits. You can deduct the excess in each of the next 5 years until it is used up, but not beyond that time. For more information, see Carryovers in Publication 526.

Publication 526 goes into a little more detail:

Carryovers

You can carry over any contributions you cannot deduct in the current year because they exceed your adjusted-gross-income limits. You may be able to deduct the excess in each of the next 5 years until it is used up, but not beyond that time. Your total charitable deduction for the year to which you carry your contributions cannot exceed 50% of your adjusted gross income for that year.

A carryover of a qualified conservation contribution can be carried forward for 15 years.

Contributions you carry over are subject to the same percentage limits in the year to which they are carried. For example, contributions subject to the 20% limit in the year in which they are made are 20% limit contributions in the year to which they are carried.

For each category of contributions, you deduct carryover contributions only after deducting all allowable contributions in that category for the current year. If you have carryovers from 2 or more prior years, use the carryover from the earlier year first.

But none of it allows for deductions left out of a prior year return.

  • 1
    To be clear, Joe's advice applies if you've given so much to charity that you hit the limits of what you're allowed to deduct in that year. The excess rolls over to the next year and you can take it then. So if you find even more charitable deductions in the capped year, you take them in the next year anyway. That is the only case where you can do that. Also, if you have that problem, you are a superhero. It's a great feeling, isn't it? – Harper Sep 13 '16 at 2:51

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