Watch out for unfair IRS technicality

Dear Harry: In early May, I got a call from an IRS agent to set up an appointment for him to examine the books of my business for 2009. He indicated that there were no flags on my income or expenses, and that it was just a routine examination. The examination of my business records took a day and a half, and he found no problems. After that, he briefly reviewed the rest of the return and he decided to look at my charitable contributions in detail. He asked to see the canceled checks, which I did very easily. Then he wanted to see the letters supporting my larger contributions. I had them all except for two $1,000 contributions: one to my church and one to my college alumni fund. I told him that it would be no big hassle to get them, and he said it was too late. According to him, I had to have the letters in my possession by the date I filed the return. Letters dated after that but before the due date of the return were no good, either. His supervisor backed that up when I called to verify his position. Is this correct? If so, please inform your readers who are facing an IRS audit to get those letters (properly dated) before an agent asks for them.

What Harry says: This date technicality is so grossly unfair that I have to agree with your position even though such letters do not meet the IRS' requirements. I can easily see someone who has made a very large contribution without the letter backup going to court to get the IRS position set aside. Incidentally, you needed a backup letter for all contributions of at least $250. n

Write Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19130. Harry urges all his readers to give blood — contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-Red Cross.