When is a Charitable Contribution Appraisal Required?

A commonly overlooked requirement of taking a tax deduction for donating clothing and household goods to charity is the substantiation requirement, for both what is donated and the value placed on the donation. Because the IRS has encountered so much abuse in this area, it has increased the donation verification requirements over the years, and taxpayers risk losing the deduction if their donations are not correctly documented and reasonably valued.

Fair Market Value – Generally, it is up to you, the donor, to reasonably determine the fair market value (FMV) of the items you donate. If your return is reviewed, the values you claimed can be challenged. A deduction for household goods or clothing is not allowed unless they are in good used condition or better. The FMV of used household goods, furniture, appliances, linens, used clothing and other personal items are usually worth far less than the price they sold for new. Valuing these items as an arbitrary percentage of the original cost or by using another fixed formula is not appropriate – the condition of each item, whether it is still in style and other factors need to be considered. The value of the donated item(s) will determine the type of verification needed. The documentation and verification requirements are broken down into four categories:

  • Deductions of less than $250 – These donations require a receipt from the charity that includes the date and location of the contribution and a reasonably detailed description of the donated property.
    CAUTION – Don’t always rely on door hangers as a valid acknowledgment, since they generally do not include all of the required information (especially the reasonably detailed description of the donated item), and their use as documentation has been denied in tax court.
  • Deductions of $250 to $500 – Such deductions require a written acknowledgement from the charity that includes the date and location of the contribution and a reasonably detailed description of the donated property, whether the qualified organization gave you any goods or services as a result of the contribution, and if goods and/or services were provided to you, a description of the goods/services and an estimate of their value.
  • Deductions of over $500 but not over $5,000 – You must have the same acknowledgement and written records as for contributions of at least $250 but not more than $500, as described above. In determining whether your deduction is worth $500 or more, combine your claimed deductions for all similar property items donated to any charitable organization during the year. In addition, the records must also include:
    • How the property was obtained – for example, by purchase, gift, bequest, inheritance, or exchange.
    • The approximate date when the property was obtained or, if you created, produced, or manufactured it, the approximate date when the property was substantially completed.
    • The cost or other basis, and any adjustments to the basis, of property held for less than 12 months and, if available, the cost or other basis of property held for 12 months or more. However, this requirement does not apply to publicly traded securities. If you are unable to provide either the date the property was obtained or the cost basis of the property and there is reasonable cause for not being able to do so, you need to attach a statement to your return with an explanation.When your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is over $500, Form 8283 must be completed and attached to your Form 1040.
  • Deductions over $5,000 – You must have the same acknowledgement and written records as for contributions of at least $250 but not more than $500, as described above. In addition, if the contribution exceeds $5,000 for a single property item or group of similar items, then a qualified appraisal is required, and IRS Form 8283 must be completed, signed by the qualified appraiser and attached to the return. The exception to this rule is publicly traded securities.

Example: Jay and Emily made three donations of used clothing during the year: $2,500 worth to the Salvation Army, $1,500 worth to the Vietnam Veterans of America and $2,000 to Goodwill, for a total of $6,000. Because the items were all similar in nature (clothing) and because the total exceeded $5,000, Jay and Emily will need to obtain a qualified appraisal.

Qualified Appraisal – A qualified appraisal of any property is an appraisal that’s treated as qualified under IRS regulations. This means that the person doing the appraisal is generally someone who earned an appraisal designation from a recognized professional appraiser organization, has met certain education or experience requirements relative to the type of property being appraised, regularly prepares appraisals for a fee and has not been prohibited from practicing before the IRS.

Appraisal Timing– You must obtain the appraisal no earlier than 60 days before the appraisal property’s contribution date and no later than the extended due date of your tax return.

CAUTION – If you don’t bother to obtain an appraisal and the IRS later challenges your deduction, it will be too late to get the appraisal, and the deduction will most likely be denied.

Donations of vehicles, boats and airplanes have a special set of rules not covered in this article if the claimed deduction exceeds $500. Please give us a call about the documentation requirements for vehicle donations and any questions you might have related to any charitable contribution. Click here to download a special non-cash contribution form.

Treasury Department and IRS Proposed Regulations May Cause Family-Controlled Entities to Lose Estate-Planning Discount

The Treasury Department and IRS released proposed regulations, which, if finalized, will reduce the valuation discounts when transferring interests in family-controlled entities among family members.

Valuation discounts are frequently used to lessen the value of interests in closely-held entities for estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax purposes. These discounts allow a greater amount of property to be transferred to younger generations, by using less of taxpayer’s estate/gift lifetime exclusion. The proposed regulations affect the value of the interests transferred, but not the entities themselves, by reducing or eliminating the ability to apply valuation discounts in certain circumstances. The proposed regulations were issued on August 4, 2016.

In order to be affected by the proposed regulations, the following three criteria must apply:

  1. Family member owners of entities which are corporations, partnerships, LLCs or other arrangements deemed to be a business entity;
  2. Entities which are controlled by family members before and after a transfer:
    • LLCs or other entities:
      • at least 50 percent of the capital interests in the entity or arrangement; or
      • at least 50 percent of the profit interests in the entity or arrangement; or
      • an equity interest with the ability to cause the liquidation of the entity or arrangement in whole or in part.
    • Corporations:
      • at least 50 percent of the total voting power of the equity interest of the entity; or
      • at least 50 percent of the total fair market value of the equity interests of the entity.
    • Partnerships:
      • at least 50 percent of the capital interest in the partnership; or
      • at least 50 percent of the profits interest in the partnership; or
      • a general partner in a limited partnership regardless of their ownership percentage.
  3. Controlled by the transferor and/or family members. Family includes, for this purpose, the spouse of the transferor, any ancestor or lineal descendant of the transferor or their spouses, and any brother or sister of the transferor and their descendants and spouses. If the owner is an entity, look through the entity to the individual owners. If the owner is a trust, look through the trust to current beneficiaries.

These are complex regulations that determine the impact of changes in voting rights, and restrictions could occur when transferring interests in business entities, either by gift during a taxpayer’s lifetime or by bequest at death. These are generally provsions built into shareholder or partnership agreements that indicate the rights of transferees in the interests they receive. This is compared to the rights, powers and restrictions the transferor might have had prior to the transfer. Changes to these rules will substantially limit the transferor’s ability to reduce the value of the interest transferred.

The new valuation rules will generally apply to transfers occurring after the date the final regulations are published. That date will not occur prior to December 1, 2016.

All individuals who might be affected should identify any potential opportunities for lifetime transfers of property that can still use the discounting benefits before the regulations become final. It is also important to determine the impact of the rules on future estate tax liabilities. Business ownership agreements and your current estate planning documents should be analyzed and reviewed.

Contact Us

Contact a Tarlow partner at 212-697-8540, with any questions regarding this article, or any of your estate planning needs.