3 Tips on Preparing Contribution Receipts for 2020

By Kristen Alexander

Anyone who has ever had contact with church administration has seen it: the end of year chaos that comes with getting everything in line for the new year. 

Knowing that contribution receipts are typically sent out by January 31st causes stress and anxiety at the beginning of the year. Much of the confusion comes from simply not knowing what is expected from your organization when it comes to donations and how they should be recorded and acknowledged. The first thing to know is that the burden of proof falls on the donor. It is the donor that is required to provide documentation for charitable giving to the IRS. This can be done in one of two ways:

  1. Through bank records (check copies or bank/credit card statements)
  2. With a written statement from the organization that received their donation

While churches are not obligated to send out donation receipts to their congregation’s members and donors, it is an act of common courtesy and an act of gratitude to send these receipts to everyone who has provided a donation to your ministry.

Many churches are moving to donation data tracking software to record these items. Most donation tracking software can even generate giving receipts! StartCHURCH offers a software known as Kingdom Steward, which allows you to print or email these statements directly to your donors, so they receive them promptly with less frustration on your part!

Special considerations

As with anything, there are special circumstances that surround certain types of donations. These include:

  • Noncash donations
  • Quid pro quo situations
  • Credit card processes

These types of donations must be handled differently to provide the church with a proper record of receipt and to provide the donor with a contribution receipt that is acceptable to the IRS for their tax deduction. Let’s review these rules separately to get a better understanding.

Noncash donations

Churches and ministries receive donations of items all the time. Vehicles, equipment, instruments, buildings—you name it, and it has probably been given to an organization that requires it. But how do you properly record the receipt of these items for the individual that has given them?

The first thing to remember is that the organization cannot determine what the item is worth. That is up to the tax preparer for the individual. A contemporaneous written acknowledgment must be given, detailing what the item is and the condition that it is in. That written acknowledgement will then be taken to the tax preparer and used to itemize the deduction on their tax return

For items that are estimated to be worth more than five hundred dollars at the time of donation, Form 8283 must be filed with the IRS by the donor. You must also file Form 8283 if you have a group of similar items for which a total deduction of over $500 is claimed. A contemporaneous written acknowledgment should still be issued to the donor.

Learn more about other important rules to consider for donation receipts by reading our blog, “8 Important Rules for Creating Donation Receipts.”

Quid pro quo

This rule refers to donations to your organization in which the donor received something in return. As an example, if you were to sell coffee mugs at your church’s service for $10, and a member purchased one and gave a donation for a total of $40, their donation only counts for $30 since the item was to be bought at $10 dollars. The total amount that was given less the value of the item or service that was received in return will be counted as a tax-deductible donation.

When the donor gives a total of $75 or more and receives a service or item in return, a separate receipt must be given detailing a good faith estimate of the value of services or goods received.

Track Donations with Kingdom Steward!

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Credit card processing

More and more organizations are moving to credit card processing companies to take donations on their behalf. It is important to keep in mind that the whole amount of their donation is considered, the processing fees are the responsibility of the organization. It should also be noted that the date that the donation finishes processing is the date that it will be received by the organization. This determines what year the donation will be tax-deductible. If the donation is given on December 30, but it doesn’t process until January 2, then the donation will be considered for the following year by the IRS. However, anything that processes by midnight on December 31 will be considered a donation that year.

End the uncertainty

I strongly recommend getting a donation tracking software to handle your donations if you don’t already have one in place. Keeping track of these records without it can be a hassle, and a lot of them will track the information above without any extra headache. Some even generate your receipts with the necessary statement that “no goods were provided except for intangible religious services,” or in the case of quid pro quo that “other than those listed, no goods or services were provided except for intangible religious services.” Tracking these donations is often overlooked throughout the rest of the year, but the first month can cause stress and confusion that is unnecessary when the solution is right at your fingertips. 

At StartCHURCH, our ministry-minded bookkeepers are specialized in managing the books for churches, ministries, and other nonprofits, providing expertise for pastors and ministry leaders to rely on for situations such as these. We want you to lead your ministry with confidence. 

If you have any questions about properly handling donations, our donation tracking software, or our bookkeeping service, please call our specialists at 877-494-4655. Or, click the button below to schedule a call to have a specialist call you at your convenience.

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