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FAQ: Contribution dates for year-end gifts

Resource Center - Foundation

Disclaimer: Nothing in this posting is intended to be legal advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate legal officials, particularly the IRS and also your tax attorney.

You can deduct your contributions only in the year you actually make them, in cash or other property. This applies whether you use the cash or an accrual method of accounting.

Time of making contribution

Usually, you make a contribution at the time of its unconditional delivery.

  • Checks: A check that you mail to a charity is considered delivered on the date you mail it.
  • Credit card: Contributions charged on your bank credit card are deductible in the year you make the charge.
  • Stock certificate: The gift to a charity of a properly endorsed stock certificate is completed on the date of mailing or other delivery to the charity or to the charity's agent. However, if you give a stock certificate to your agent or to the issuing corporation for transfer to the name of the charity, your gift is not completed until the date the stock is transferred on the books of the corporation.

Common questions and answers

  • Does the IRS require a date on gift receipts? In the United States the IRS does not require ANY date on gift acknowledgements/receipts.
  • Does the date on the check apply? The date on the check is not a legal date.The customary "legal" date of gift for mailed in contributions is the date of postmark.
  • What about credit cards and stock? The above is true except in the case of some other, non-cash, forms of gifts like credit card and stock donations. For credit cards, regardless of when or how the donor tells you to zap their account, the legal gift date is the date the charge hits their account. For stock, things get a bit more complicated. If the donor mails it in, the gift date is the later of the two postmarks for the certificate and stock power. If it is direct transfered, it's the date of the direct transfer and not the date the donor told the broker to transfer the gift.  For the gift to be consummated the stock must be registered in your name or in the control of you or yourl legal agent.
  • Items sent by third parties. For items sent via third parties, like FedEx and UPS, the gift date is the date you sign for the package, not the date it was sent.

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