Tax Tips from the IRS

Summertime Tax Tip 2009-23

Keeping Good Records Reduces Stress at Tax Time 

Although most people won’t be filing their tax returns for several months, the dog days of summer are actually a great time to start planning for the tax filing season by ensuring your records are organized.  Whether you are an individual taxpayer or a business owner, you can avoid headaches at tax time with good records because they will help you remember transactions you made during the year.

Here are a few things the IRS wants you to know about recordkeeping.

Keeping well-organized records also ensures you can answer questions if your return is selected for examination or prepare a response if you are billed for additional tax. In most cases, the IRS does not require you to keep records in any special manner. Generally speaking, you should keep any and all documents that may have an impact on your federal tax return.

Individual taxpayers should usually keep the following records supporting items on their tax returns for at least three years:

  • Bills
  • Credit card and other receipts
  • Invoices
  • Mileage logs
  • Canceled, imaged or substitute checks or any other proof of payment
  • Any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return

You should normally keep records relating to property until at least three years after you sell or otherwise dispose of the property. Examples include:

  • A home purchase or improvement
  • Stocks and other investments
  • Individual Retirement Arrangement transactions
  • Rental property records

If you are a small business owner, you must keep all your employment tax records for at least four years after the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later. Examples of important documents business owners should keep Include:

  • Gross receipts: Cash register tapes, bank deposit slips, receipt books, invoices, credit card charge slips and Forms 1099-MISC
  • Proof of purchases: Canceled checks, cash register tape receipts, credit card sales slips and invoices
  • Expense documents: Canceled checks, cash register tapes, account statements, credit card sales slips, invoices and petty cash slips for small cash payments
  • Documents to verify your assets: Purchase and sales invoices, real estate closing statements and canceled checks

For more information about recordkeeping, check out IRS Publications 552, Recordkeeping for Individuals, 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records, and Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses. These publications are available on the IRS Web site, IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Summertime Tax Tip 2009-21

Inside This Issue

Ten Tips for Taxpayers Making Charitable Donations 

Every year, millions of taxpayers itemize their deductions on their federal tax return. One of the most common itemized deductions is a donation made to a charitable organization.

Here are the top ten things the IRS wants every taxpayer to know before deducting charitable donations.

  1. Charitable contributions must be made to qualified organizations to be deductible. You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization and most will be able to tell you. You can also check IRS Publication 78, which lists most qualified organizations. IRS Publication 78 is available at IRS.gov.
  2. Charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A.
  3. You generally can deduct your cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified organization. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats.
  4. If your contribution entitles you to receive merchandise, goods, or services in return – such as admission to a charity banquet or sporting event – you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
  5. Be sure to keep good records of any contribution you make, regardless of the amount. For any contribution made in cash, you must maintain a record of the contribution such as a bank record – including a cancelled check or a bank or credit card statement – a written record from the charity containing the date and amount of the contribution and the donor’s name, or a payroll deduction record.
  6. Only contributions actually made during the tax year are deductible. For example, if you pledged $500 in September but paid the charity only $200 by Dec. 31, your deduction would be $200.
  7. Include credit card charges and payments by check in the year they are given to the charity, even though you may not pay the credit card bill or have your bank account debited until the next year.
  8. For any contribution of $250 or more, you must have written acknowledgment from the organization to substantiate your donation. This written proof must include the amount of cash and a description of any property you contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.
  9. To deduct charitable contributions of items valued at $500 or more you must complete a Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and attached the form to your return.
  10. An appraisal generally must be obtained if you claim a deduction for a contribution of noncash property worth more than $5,000. In that case, you must also fill out Section B of Form 8283 and attach the form to your return.

For more information see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, and for information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These publications are available on the IRS Web site, IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

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Revised: 09/10/09 21:19:02 -0500.