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January 4, 2021

Taxpayers who don’t itemize can take a special $300 charitable contribution deduction on 2020 tax returns

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes several temporary provisions designed to help charities. These include higher elective limits for charitable cash contribution made by certain corporations, higher deduction limits for individuals and businesses for certain food donations made to food banks and other eligible charities, and a special $300 deduction.

The special $300 charitable contribution deduction is available to individual taxpayers who choose to take the standard deduction rather than itemizing their deductions. So, if you do not file Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with your 2020 Form 1040 series income tax return, you can still take this $300 deduction ($150 deduction if your filing status is married filing separately) if your charitable cash donations qualify.

Prior to the CARES act change charitable contribution deductions could only be claimed on Schedule A and did not directly affect the adjusted gross income you reported on your tax return.

Please note that this article discusses only the special $300 charitable contribution deduction for individuals. For more information about other Coronavirus related tax relief provisions, visit IRS.gov/coronavirus.

What is allowed?

Charitable cash donations of up to $300 made to qualifying organizations before December 31, 2020, are now deductible for individuals who choose to use the standard deduction rather than itemizing their deductions.

Cash donations include those made by check, credit card or debit card. They don’t include donated services, household items, securities or other property.

What donations are considered allowable?

Though cash donations to most charitable organizations qualify, some do not. Before making a donation, people should check the special Tax Exempt Organization Search (TEOS) tool on IRS.gov to make sure the organization qualifies and is eligible for tax-deductible donations.

Where do I claim it on my tax return?

The donation amount will be reported on Form 1040 series tax returns. Review the related form instructions for exactly where to report it on the form.

Forms and instructions can be found on IRS.gov at Forms, Instructions & Publications.

What records do I need to keep?

By law, special recordkeeping rules apply to any taxpayer claiming a charitable contribution deduction. Usually, this includes obtaining a receipt or acknowledgement letter from the charity before filing a tax return and retaining a cancelled check or credit card receipt.

For details on these recordkeeping rules, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

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