DEAR HARRY: I have always contributed to my college's alumni fund. This year was a good year for me, so my contribution was $2,500. As a kind of incentive (which I knew about in advance), I got a light jacket with the school's name and logo. The confirmation note that I received only showed a contribution of the $2,500. Nothing was said about the jacket. Is the value of the jacket (perhaps $25) a reduction of my contribution, or is it income reportable on my 1040?
WHAT HARRY SAYS: Neither! IRS rules are pretty specific here. The charity must tell you the value of that jacket. If the item is considered insubstantial, the charity must tell you that. You seem to be in a safe area for the full deduction, because a rule for large contributions says you can ignore token gifts that are worth the lesser of $102 or 2 percent of the contribution. Smaller contributions have rules, too. For donations of at least $51, a token is ignored if its value is up to $10.20. These rules cover most of the items offered in the form of caps, tote bags and the like that carry your school's logo. Any gifts outside the guidelines are treated as a reduction of the contribution, not as income.
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