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Our friend got the tax receipt for our donation. How do we get it back?

The question

My husband and I recently attended a charity dinner. The table was bought by a neighbour who invited a number of other neighbourhood couples to attend and fill up the table. But he also asked that we pay him for the tickets. We did so, at $200 a pop. Now, a few months later, I began wondering who was going to get the tax receipt for this donation. So I called the charity. Turns out, the organizing neighbour (let's call him Chet) had taken the entire tax receipt without informing the charity of the other four couples' contributions. What would be the right course of action here? Call him on it? Or inform the charity of our contribution and request a receipt? Or both?

The answer

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This charitable "Chet" has a lot of cheek.

Please pardon me while I cough up a quick furball re: charity in general, before settling down to your question.

Sorry, I always get a little Scroogy this time of year. In point of fact, I love Scrooge, and find him a hugely sympathetic figure. Like, I love the scene, early on in A Christmas Carol, when two "portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold" materialize in the offices of "Scrooge and Marley's," where Scrooge is trying to get some work done, present their "credentials," and ask if they have the honour of addressing Scrooge or Marley.

Warily, Scrooge tells them he's Scrooge; that Marley died seven years ago "this very night."

"We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner," one of the portly gentlemen says.

Then the line that makes me laugh every time: "At the ominous word 'liberality,' Scrooge frowned, shook his head, and handed the credentials back."

Later, in response to their retreated entreaties on behalf of the less fortunate, he says, "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!"

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And, sorry, but as someone who has spent his whole life on what rappers call "the grind," I deeply sympathize with Scrooge's statements. My business "occupies me constantly," as I want to tell all the credentials-presenting canvassers who knock on my door this time of year; and I'm not (yet) at that stage of my career (unfortunately) where I can turn to the cameras and say, with humility-filled face: "I've been so fortunate, I just want to give back." Let Justin Bieber give back. I'm hustling like a madman trying (along with my wife) to keep a roof between my family's heads and the rain and snow.

I know there are people out there less fortunate than me. But it's always the more fortunate, the "I've-been-so-lucky-I-feel-the need-to-give-back" hotshots and fat cats shaking me down for my hard-earned shekels on behalf of their ultra-arty chamber orchestra or opera troupe or whatever, and it can be tough to take.

Anyway, enough: I'm digging my own grave here, I can feel it. Everyone's probably going to hate me even more than they probably already do after this one.

On to your question. You ask if you should "call him" on his receipt appropriation or contact the charity and ask for your receipt "or both."

I'd actually say "neither." I'm not usually one to advocate passive-aggressive solutions to problems, but this case calls for it, I think.

Talk to "Chet." Tell him, all innocent, that you haven't received your tax receipt yet. Ask him, with childlike, wide-eyed wonder (this is the passive-aggressive part), if you should contact the charity directly, or go through him.

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That last bit is actually motivated by a charitable impulse toward "Chet" – gives him an opportunity to correct his little "oversight" without losing face.

Yes, the first bit could be construed as a species of threat – but hey, with Chet cooking the books on his own behalf, you have the right to a little arm-twisting, I think. You know the saying, "Every great cause begins as a movement, degenerates into a business, and ends up as a racket"? Same could be said of a lot of charitable enterprises, I feel, and since young "Chet" is lining his pockets with your hard-earned dosh, all bets are off.

He may try to stall. If so, wait a bit, then ask again. If he still stalls, maybe turn up the heat by getting one of the other neighbourhood couples you mention to ask also. Surely, like you, they must be wondering why they didn't get a receipt.

The good news is: Tax season is still a ways off. And, I predict, your persistent friendly pressure, and a sense of growing consensus, will checkmate Charity Chet, and he'll cough up the receipts in the end.

Hope that helps. Think of it as my charitable gift to you. Good afternoon!

What am I supposed to do now?

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