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Year End Donations for Next Year's Projects

Question:

At the end of each calendar year, a church has several members who make cash contributions to projects which the members have pledged to support in the upcoming year. The church uses the modified cash basis of accounting. Believing that IRS regulations so require, the church's year end statement includes the donation even though it is designated for the next year. 

For book purposes, can the church record the donation in a liability account as a "prepaid donation" rather than recognizing it as income in the year of receipt? 

Answer:

Taxpayers' donations are considered to be on a cash basis, so the understanding above is correct: the donor's year-end statement must include the donation even though it is designated for a project the church will emphasize in the next year. 

If the church's financial statements are for internal purposes only (and they likely are since the modified-cash basis is not consistent with full-accrual GAAP accounting that is required for many external reporting purposes), booking it as a prepaid-donation accomplishes the objective of delaying recognition of the income until the next year. 

If the church's purpose is to delay recognition, booking it to a prepaid-donation liability account accomplishes this objective. 

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