Woodward, Okla. —
MAKE SURE YOU GET A RECEIPT
But even if the organization is a qualified charity, Stell said you won't be able to claim your donation on your taxes unless you have a receipt.
"Any time you contribute cash or property to a qualified charitable organization, you need to get a receipt for your records," he said, noting "if you give money to a qualified charity and don't have a receipt for it, you can't take the federal tax deduction."
For tax purposes, he said a contribution receipt can include a statement or letter recognizing your contribution, a cancelled check or a credit card receipt.
As an example, Stell said to consider the Salvation Army bell ringers that are seen taking donations outside of stores during the holidays.
"If you put $10 into the bucket and that bell ringer doesn't write you out a receipt, which I don't think I've ever seen one do, then you've done very well in making a contribution to that organization, but you're not going to get to count that $10 toward your tax deductions," he said.
For those who may be concerned about whether they can count religious tithing, Stell said it is still possible to get records showing your contributions to the collection plate.
"Some churches do keep records of tithes and can provide you with a statement at the end of the year showing your total contributions, and I've seen it many times in my career where people used it to claim a deduction," he said.
MAKE SURE YOU DONATE BEFORE DEC. 31
Stell said the holidays are the best time to remind taxpayers about requirements for tax deductible donations because "people's thoughts tend to be toward charity this time of year; it goes hand in hand with the season."
And for those who are in the spirit of giving this Christmas, Stell said he would remind them that in order to claim the deduction on their 2012 federal tax returns, taxpayers need to have made the contribution by Dec. 31.
"Even though you don't file until next year, the contribution must be made before the close of the calendar year," he said.
However, donations made by credit card can still count toward 2012 deductions as long as the charge is made by Dec. 31, regardless of when the charge is subsequently paid off, he said.
"As long as the charge is made before the end of the year then it counts as an amount you can use toward your charitable deductions, even if you don't pay it off until January, February or after," he said.