Advice for Congressmen and Congresswomen for Donating Your Congressional Papers 

Senators, Congressmen, and Congresswomen donate their archives of papers and records for a variety of reasons. Some folks donate to preserve the history of their district; others donate them to document social, cultural, and political changes in the United States. Whatever the reason, it is one of the best ways to build on the important legacy of the donor.

Your donation can consist of papers, manuscripts, documents, reference books, your personal & professional library, correspondence, periodicals, office items, campaign materials, photographs, digital files and technology, as well as three-dimensional objects.  All of these materials are considered to be a part of your Congressional Archive.

If you are considering making a donation of your Congressional papers, there are several important steps to consider.  

Get It Together  – Decide exactly what you plan to donate.  Review your archive.  Determine what you wish to keep for yourself, and what you plan to part with.  Sort them in your mind first, and then create a rough inventory on paper.

Find a Worthy Repository – Your papers should be placed with an institution, university library, or society where your archive can be used for academic research, political studies, and historical research. 

Some potential recipients of your archive might be:  Your hometown library or historical society; your county or state library system; your state historical society; your alma mater, historical museum, university library, a not-for profit service organization, or other historical institution.

Related Use– Make certain that your donation goes to an organization that can claim a “related use.”  The contents of your archive must support the mission of the receiving organization.  

A donation of your archive to the Red Cross will probably not be considered a related use by the IRS, unless your political focus and work involved Red Cross programs or efforts. If there is no related use, the IRS will most likely decline any potential tax deduction.

Organize it – BEFORE the donation – An organized archive is almost always substantially more valuable than an unorganized pile of files boxes full of unidentified papers, manuscripts, and documents.  Consider retaining a trained archivist to help organize, and create a formal inventory with a basic finding aids.  The Society of American Archivists is a good place to find a professional archivist.    SAA  

Understand How the Value of Your Archive Will be Determined.  Your appraiser will determine the Fair Market Value (FMV) of your archive.  FMV is the price at which a comparable item would most likely sell for in most common market.  IRS Publication 561 “Determining the Value of Donated Property” may provide some insight, but your appraiser will be able to explain it best.

Learn how the IRS expects tangible personal property to be valued in IRS Publication 561:  IRS-561  

Make Certain Your Appraisal Report Will Not Be Challenged by the IRS.   

Your report must be written in compliance with the most recent version of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).  The narrative appraisal report must comply with the IRS’s report standards, AND the appraiser must meet the IRS’s standard of a Qualified Appraiser.  

A formal, qualified appraisal is the most accurate and defensible method of reporting the value of your donation; when written by a professionally trained, tested and certified appraiser, your report becomes a trusted and accepted document.

Select a trained, tested, and certified appraiser with a specialty in manuscripts, archives and historical documents.   Here are some questions to ask as part of your selection process: Appraiser-Questions

And you’ll find Certified Archive Appraisers here: www.YourFavoriteAppraisers.com

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