What disclosures is a charitable organization required to make to its donors?
If a charitable organization receives a quid pro quo contribution of greater than $75, it must provide the donor with a written disclosure statement
Charitable Contributions – Quid Pro Quo Contributions
This is a payment a donor makes to a charity partly as a contribution and partly for goods or services. For example, if a donor gives a charity $100 and receives a concert ticket valued at $40, the donor has made a quid pro quo contribution. In this example, the charitable contribution part of the payment is $60. Even though the deductible part of the payment is not more than $75, a disclosure statement (below) must be provided by the organization to the donor because the donor’s payment (quid pro quo contribution) is more than $75. Failure to make the required disclosure may result in a penalty (below) to the organization.
The required written disclosure statement must:
- Inform the donor that the amount of the contribution that is deductible for federal income tax purposes is limited to the excess of any money (and the value of any property other than money) contributed by the donor over the fair market value of goods or services provided by the charity, and
- Provide the donor with a good faith estimate of the fair market value of the goods or services that the donor received. The charity must furnish the statement in connection with either the solicitation or the receipt of the quid pro quo contribution. If the disclosure statement is furnished in connection with a particular solicitation, it is not necessary for the organization to provide another statement when it actually receives the contribution.
No disclosure statement is required if any of the following is true:
- The goods or services given to a donor have insubstantial value as described in Revenue Procedures 90-12 and 92-49,
- There is no donative element involved in a particular transaction with a charity (for example, there is generally no donative element involved in a visitor’s purchase from a museum gift shop).
- There is only an intangible religious benefit provided to the donor. The intangible religious benefit must be provided to the donor by an organization organized exclusively for religious purposes, and must be of a type that generally is not sold in a commercial transaction outside the donative context. For example, a donor who, for a payment, is granted admission to a religious ceremony for which there is no admission charge is provided an intangible religious benefit. A donor is not provided intangible religious benefits for payments made for tuition for education leading to a recognized degree, travel services, or consumer goods.
- The donor makes a payment of $75 or less per year and receives only annual membership benefits that consist of:
- Any rights or privileges (other than the right to purchase tickets for college athletic events) that the taxpayer can exercise often during the membership period, such as free or discounted admissions or parking or preferred access to goods or services, or
- Admission to events that are open only to members and the cost per person of which is within the limits for low-cost articles described in Revenue Procedures 90-12 and 92-49 (as adjusted for inflation). Also see the discussion of insubstantial value above.
Good Faith Estimate of Fair Market Value
An organization may use any reasonable method to estimate the fair market value (FMV) of goods or services it provided to a donor, as long as it applies the method in good faith. The organization may estimate the FMV of goods or services that generally are not commercially available by using the FMV of similar or comparable goods or services. Goods or services may be similar or comparable even if they do not have the unique qualities of the goods or services being valued.
- Example 1. A charity provides a one-hour tennis lesson with a tennis professional for the first $500 payment it receives. The tennis professional provides one-hour lessons on a commercial basis for $100. A good faith estimate of the lesson’s FMV is $100.
- Example 2. For a payment of $50,000, a museum allows a donor to hold a private event in a room of the museum. A good faith estimate of the FMV of the right to hold the event in the museum can be made by using the cost of renting a hotel ballroom with a capacity, amenities, and atmosphere comparable to the museum room, even though the hotel ballroom lacks the unique art displayed in the museum room. If the hotel ballroom rents for $2,500, a good faith estimate of the FMV of the right to hold the event in the museum is $2,500.
- Example 3. For a payment of $1,000, a charity provides an evening tour of a museum conducted by a well-known artist. The artist does not provide tours on a commercial basis. Tours of the museum normally are free to the public. A good faith estimate of the FMV of the evening museum tour is $0 even though the artist conducts it.
Penalty for Failure to Disclose
A penalty is imposed on a charity that does not make the required disclosure of a quid pro quo contribution of more than $75. The penalty is $10 per contribution, not to exceed $5,000 per fundraising event or mailing. The charity can avoid the penalty if it can show that the failure was due to reasonable cause.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to provide legal or accounting advice, or to address specific situations. Please consult with your legal or tax advisor to supplement and verify what you learn here.