October 24, 2013
One Key, End-of-Year Task Every Church Should Do
Providing simple reminders can help ensure tax deductibility of donations for churchgoers.
A number of tasks need to be done before the end of the year, but there's one that can easily be done with the handy tool of the church bulletin or newsletter: Include information that will help donors ensure the tax deductibility of their charitable contributions.
Richard Hammar recommends that churches start by doing the following:
To avoid jeopardizing the tax deductibility of charitable contributions, churches should advise donors at the end of 2013 not to file their 2013 income tax returns until they have received a written acknowledgement of their contributions from the church. This communication should be in writing. To illustrate, the following statement could be placed in the church bulletin or newsletter during the last few weeks of 2013, or included in a letter to all donors:
IMPORTANT NOTICE: To ensure the deductibility of your church contributions, do not file your 2013 income tax return until you have received a written acknowledgment of your contributions from the church. Some of your contributions may not be tax-deductible if you file your tax return before receiving a written acknowledgement of your contributions from the church.
Churches then can go one step further with another simple tactic: Providing a page of information between now and the end of the year regarding the most common questions about donations, documentation requirements, and deductibility. The 2014 Charitable Contributions Bulletin Inserts by Richard Hammar is designed as a one-page summary explaining the rules of most importance to church members and can fit easily inside church bulletins, newsletters, or contribution statements.
Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA, and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, and attended Harvard Divinity School. He is the author of several books, including Pastor, Church & Law, the annual Church and Clergy Tax Guide, Reducing the Risk, the biannual Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, and the Essential Guide to Copyright Law for Churches. He is also senior editor of the Church Law & Tax Report and Church Finance Today newsletters. For more information, visit YourChurchResources.com.