Posted by Fletcher Accounting and Tax Service Inc.

5 Tax Deductions You Can Get From Volunteer Work

5 Tax Deductions You Can Get From Volunteer Work

Most people volunteer out of the goodness of their hearts, but did you know that you can get several tax breaks for being a good Samaritan? Just because you don’t get paid for your volunteer efforts, doesn’t mean you can’t get tax deductions for your out-of-pocket expenses. Here are the following tax deductions you may be able to get as a volunteer:

1. Cost of Gas and Oil or a Mileage Deduction 

When you travel for volunteer work, you spend money on gas and oil. You can deduct the costs or a mileage deduction of 14 cents per mile to and from where you volunteer as long as you used the mileage for driving yourself to the site where you volunteer. You can’t include mileage from driving your child to a charitable volunteer event, nor routine upkeep and maintenance costs, or any share of your car’s insurance. The same with medical expenses, there is no threshold to reach and parking fees and tolls are deductible as well.

2. Round Trip Public Transportation Costs

If you take public transportation such as subway, bus, or taxi fare from work or home to the site where volunteering happens, you may deduct the costs to your tax return. It could get confusing for some people who take the bus home from work but stop by the volunteer site. Make sure you separate the fees or fare you spent for your volunteer work. 

3. Long Distance Transportation, Lodging, and Meal Expenses

Volunteers who go to a board meeting in another city or state or represents their charity at a conference will be able to deduct airfare or other transportation costs as well as hotel expenses and meals. These costs must be directly involved with your volunteer work.

4. Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Be sure to keep the receipts you spent on small expenses such as the copying you used to for a board meeting, personal hygiene items requested by the homeless shelter to bring with you, glue, paper, and other related things that cost money. 

5. Uniforms

There are several charities that request their volunteers to wear a particular outfit when doing volunteer work. You may be able to deduct that hospital tunic you needed or the outfit with the special ranger hat that the zoo requested for you to buy and wear. It’s highly possible that you cant deduct shirts that you can wear for other things such as the red polo with the logo you got for the golf tournament. 

How to Qualify for These Deductions?

Charities that are IRS-recognized can give you a tax-exempt designation for your volunteer works. To make sure you got everything right, find the 501(C) (3) designation on the charity’s website or printed materials. You can ask for the charity’s tax-letter or research about the charity at the IRS website.

  • Since you won’t be able to deduct volunteer expenses by taking the standard deduction, it is best to itemize your deductions on your tax form. You may be able to deduct volunteer expenses if you’re already itemizing things including charitable donations and medical expenses.
  • Never deduct expenses already reimbursed by the charity.
  • The expenses directly related to your volunteer efforts are the only ones you can itemize. Deducting your travel expenses from a vacation,   even if you stopped in to do a few hours of volunteer work on that holiday, is not allowed.
  • Personal expenses must not be claimed as volunteer expenses. If you brought your child to help you do volunteer work and you bought him food for lunch, you can’t deduct the lunch as it is a choice you made on your own - not required by the charity.
  • Make it a habit to keep good written records of expenses involving your volunteer efforts. You may start a mileage long, keep it up to date, and keep all the receipts. The value of your time isn’t deductible. Providing a pro bono professional service to a nonprofit for example is the volunteer part, not something you can deduct. However, a lot of expenses can be deducted which could be even more valuable than when you personally volunteer. 

If you're confused as to what expenses you can deduct and cannot deduct, you may consult a tax professional who can help you identify eligible expenses and save more money than you usually do.

Fletcher Accounting and Tax Service Inc.
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