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Conditional Charitable Contributions Are Nondeductible

Posted by Mike C Posted on June 27 2013

 An attorney and his wife donated cash and a conservation easement to a charity. Because of his concern about recent IRS's challenges to improper charitable contribution deductions for transfers of easements on real property to charities, the attorney (donor) obtained a comfort letter from the charity promising to refund the entire cash endowment and remove the conservation easement if the IRS disallowed the deductions in full. Nearly a year later, the charity sent a letter to the attorney, informing him that the terms of the comfort letter could affect the deductibility of the contribution and offering to withdraw the provision for refund if the IRS disallowed the deductions. However, the donor didn't ask the charity to withdraw the refund offer. The Tax Court concluded that the charity's formal offer to withdraw the refund provision indicated that it intended to honor its promise in the comfort letter (even if it may not have been legally enforceable). According to the Court, the comfort letter "rendered the gifts conditional and, thus, nondeductible." Lawrence G. Graev , 140 TC No. 17 (2013).