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If you give via cash, check, credit card, electronic funds transfer or payroll deduction, the value of the gift is easy to determine. However, to claim a deduction, you must have a canceled check or credit card slip, a receipt, or some other reliable written record or evidence.
If the cash gift was $250 or more, your own records won't be enough. You must get a written acknowledgement of the gift from the organization that states the amount of the gift, and the amount of goods or services you received in return (if any). You must get this acknowledgment before you file your tax return for 2011 or the due date of the return, including extensions, whichever is later.
If you made more than one small donation (under $250) to the same group, but the total for the year was more than $250, don't worry about getting a statement from the organization. Each gift is counted separately.
If you made gifts through payroll deductions (such as to the United Way), you don't need an acknowledgement letter unless any single deduction exceeded $250. In that case, save a copy of your pay stub and also a pledge card stating that the organization does not provide goods or services in exchange for payroll contributions.
Some additional rules apply to noncash gifts to charities, including additional documentation rules.