Taking a tax deduction for a charitable donation is not quite as simple as it was prior to 2006. The Internal Revenue Service has raised the bar for what is acceptable as documented proof of the donation. Most reputable charities will offer you a receipt for your donation that meets IRS criteria. If the charity does not, you can create your own receipt and ask the donee to sign it. At the time of publication, the IRS requires written documentation from the charity for each donation worth $250 or more.
Type or print your name at the top of a page, identifying yourself as the donor.
State, below your name, that the charity has received an “absolute” gift from you. This means that you received nothing in exchange for the donation, and you don’t expect the charity to return the gift to you at a future time. You’re donating the item; it’s not a loan.
Describe the donation you're making. If you give cash, write the date and amount. If you write a check, list the amount, the date, the check number, your account number and the name of your bank. If you donate a tangible item, describe it in detail, including any flaws. If it’s something like an air condition or a computer, include the make and model number. Include the value you've set on the gift.
State, below the description, that you did not receive anything in exchange for your donation. If you did, other rules apply.
Date the receipt, and create a signature line for someone associated with the charity to sign it. If you know in advance who will sign it, include his name and his official position with the charity, as well as the charity’s full name and address. If you don’t know who will sign it, ask the person to add this information at the time you get the signature. Have the receipt signed at the same time you make the donation.
Attach all other proof you have of the transaction to your signed receipt. If you wrote a check, use a copy of the cancelled check. You could also use a copy of your bank statement to prove the transaction, if the date and the amount of the entry match up with your signed receipt. If you donated a used item, such as a computer, attach proof confirming how you set the value, such as a comparable listing on eBay that sold for the same amount of money.
If the date on your receipt is later than the date on your tax return, the IRS won’t accept the receipt or allow you the deduction.
If you donate anything worth more than $5,000, the IRS usually requires that you have it appraised to prove the value.
If you receive anything in exchange for your donation, the IRS calls this a “quid pro quo” contribution. You must deduct the value of what you received from the value of your gift, and you can only claim a deduction for the balance. If the value of your donation before subtracting the value of what you received exceeds $75, your receipt must also include a statement disclosing the transaction.