Internal Revenue Service officials have a low opinion of unexplained charity deductions on income tax returns.
Just how low became apparent last month when the New York district tax commissioner, Harold All, disclosed that his office is using a guideline of $78 for unsubstantiated charity donations, $52 of which is allowed for church donations.
The New York Times reported that one “high corporate official” emerged “ashen-faced” from his interview with the IRS, during which his unsubstantiated $4,500 charity deduction was cut to $78.
Mr. All was also quoted as indicating that a taxpayer who could not get a statement from his pastor vouching for regular church attendance might not be allowed even the $52 deduction.
Reaction to the recently announced policy was mixed. “What an evaluation of God and compassion,” wrote one angry citizen. “I don’t think an agency of my government has any business, even by inference, telling the American people what a ‘guideline’ contribution to church and charity is.”
The “off-the-cuff reaction” of Dr. Edward L. R. Elson, pastor of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C., was that “personal experience and the experience of others indicate that the amount allowed is far too low.”
“I’m sure I’d take several hundred dollars on that,” he said.
A letter writer to the Times said. “It appears that the Internal Revenue Service—or at least the North Atlantic area—is trying to discourage any form of contribution other than by check.”
On the other hand, reported the Times, the guideline “may be welcomed by many taxpayers who have listened in silent vexation to tales of major unsubstantiated charity deductions by others.”
(Deductions may be substantiated by receipts, canceled checks, and “other records” ...1
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