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Publication 526

When To Deduct(p13)

You can deduct your contributions only in the year you actually make them in cash or other property (or in a later carryover year, as explained under How To Figure Your Deduction When Limits Apply, later). This applies whether you use the cash or an accrual method of accounting.

Time of making contribution.(p13)

Usually, you make a contribution at the time of its unconditional delivery.
A check you mail to a charity is considered delivered on the date you mail it.
Text message.(p13)
Contributions made by text message are deductible in the year you send the text message if the contribution is charged to your telephone or wireless account.
Credit card.(p13)
Contributions charged on your bank credit card are deductible in the year you make the charge.
Pay-by-phone account.(p13)
Contributions made through a pay-by-phone account are considered delivered on the date the financial institution pays the amount. This date should be shown on the statement the financial institution sends you.
Stock certificate.(p13)
A properly endorsed stock certificate is considered delivered on the date of mailing or other delivery to the charity or to the charity's agent. However, if you give a stock certificate to your agent or to the issuing corporation for transfer to the name of the charity, your contribution isn't delivered until the date the stock is transferred on the books of the corporation.
Promissory note.(p13)
If you issue and deliver a promissory note to a charity as a contribution, it isn't a contribution until you make the note payments.
If you grant a charity an option to buy real property at a bargain price, it isn't a contribution until the charity exercises the option.
Borrowed funds.(p13)
If you contribute borrowed funds, you can deduct the contribution in the year you deliver the funds to the charity, regardless of when you repay the loan.
Conditional gift.(p13)
If your contribution depends on a future act or event to become effective, you can't take a deduction unless there is only a negligible chance the act or event won't take place.
If your contribution would be undone by a later act or event, you can't take a deduction unless there is only a negligible chance the act or event will take place.

Example 1.(p13)

You contribute cash to a local school board, which is a political subdivision of a state, to help build a school gym. The school board will refund the money to you if it doesn't collect enough to build the gym. You can't deduct your contribution until there is no chance (or only a negligible chance) of a refund.

Example 2.(p13)

You donate land to a city for as long as the city uses it for a public park. The city plans to use the land for a park, and there is no chance (or only a negligible chance) of the land being used for any different purpose. You can deduct your charitable contribution.