Volunteers and Taxes

We’re talking in this article about charity volunteer deductions under the Federal income tax rules. Different rules apply to business and other deductions, and under State income tax laws. As always, for more information contact an experienced and capable tax advisor.

Check out our Podcast on charity volunteer tax deductions.


First questions for you to answer

Tax Return Signing

  1. Do you itemize deductions on your Federal income tax return? If you do, keep reading.
    • If you don’t, continue only for information; you won’t be getting a charitable deduction.
  2. Are you volunteering for a Qualified Organization? Many “nonprofit” organizations, however valuable, are not Qualified Organizations.
    • To be a Qualified Organization the organization must be a church or a government unit or apply to the IRS.
    • See FAQ #2 below for how to check if you are dealing with a Qualified Organization.

The basic test, use of your car, record keeping

Your Car?

  1. The basic test. You may be able to deduct amounts you pay in giving services to a qualified organization. The amounts must be
    • (a) unreimbursed, and
    • (b) directly connected with the services you gave, and
    • (c) incurred only because of the services you gave, and
    • (d) not personal, living or family expenses.
  2. If you use your car in providing services that pass the basic test you can deduct:
    • 14 cents per mile to and from the Qualified Organization location, or actual variable costs related to that mileage (look below for more information).
    • Plus tolls and parking.
  3. Be sure to keep good records — you need to be able to show the basis for your deduction.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ #1 – I donate time or services. How much can I deduct?

You can not deduct the value of your time or services donated to a charity. Volunteers are often surprised about this. Of course, since the volunteer wasn’t paid for the services, they didn’t receive taxable income. No taxable income, no tax deduction – a simple, clean result.

FAQ #2 – How do I find out if the group is a Qualified Organization?

Remember, you can only charitable contributions made to groups that are eligible to receive them. Many groups, although they are nonprofits, are not eligible. You can quickly check the status of a nonprofit at CharityCheck101.org. It lists every nonprofit and charity recognized by the IRS. When you find the group’s report at CharityCheck101.org, look at the first line of its Tax Status tab.

Note, churches and government units are not required to be recognized by the IRS to be Qualified Organizations.

FAQ #3 – Can I deduct donations made before the date the group is recognized by the IRS?

We’re talking about groups other than churches and government units here. The timing here can get a bit tricky. Keep in touch with the organization so you’ll know if and when it receives its IRS determination.

  • You can’t deduct unless the organization actually gets its 501(c)(3) tax-exemption ruling from the IRS.
  • Once the ruling is received, however, the organization’s qualified status is retroactive to the date it applied for the exemption (or the date it was created/organized, if it filed within 27 months of being created/organized). See “Effective date of exemption” on page 24 of IRS Publication 557.

Here’s an example: Let’s say the organization was created/organized on Jan 1, 2015 and filed for exemption on May 1, 2015. Whenever it receives a positive determination from the IRS, you can deduct donations starting Jan 1, 2015. If the organization doesn’t hear from the IRS until after Apr 15, 2016, however, you won’t have a basis to deduct in you file on or before April 15. Extensions / amended returns are a possibility — but could be costly compared to the value of the deduction.

FAQ #4 – Can I deduct mileage and/or other costs of taking my child to his or her volunteer activities?

Unfortunately, the answer is No. The following is from IRS Publication 526,

“You cannot deduct contributions to specific individuals, including the following.

* Expenses you paid for another person who provided services to a qualified organization.

Example. Your son does missionary work. You pay his expenses. You cannot claim a deduction for your son’s unreimbursed expenses related to his contribution of services.”

FAQ #5 – Can I deduct mileage and/or other costs of helping a friend or neighbor who is in need?

If you are helping a specific person, the answer is No. The following is from IRS Publication 526,

You cannot deduct contributions to specific in­dividuals, including the following.

* * *

Contributions to individuals who are needy or worthy. You cannot deduct these contri­butions even if you make them to a quali­fied organization for the benefit of a spe­cific person. But you can deduct a contribution to a qualified organization that helps needy or worthy individuals if you do not indicate that your contribution is for a specific person.

Example. You can deduct contribu­tions to a qualified organization for flood relief, hurricane relief, or other disaster re­lief. However, you cannot deduct contribu­tions earmarked for relief of a particular in­dividual or family.

FAQ #6 – What’s the IRS publication on this subject?

See IRS Publication 526 — Charitable Contributions for more details and for examples.

Many other questions and answers

See the Comments section at the bottom of the page for many more questions and answers.


Don’t travel to the charity by car?

Take the bus, train, subway, taxi or other public transportation to get to and from the charity’s location? As described in more detail under “Other costs” above, you can deduct those costs so long as: they are directly connected and only incurred because of the services you give; and are not personal, living or family expenses (and of course aren’t reimbursed).

Yes, 14 cents per mile is silly

Undoubtedly you’ve seen the regular updates from the IRS and other sources concerning deducting costs of use of a car. The Internal Revenue Code requires the IRS to adjust the business and medical mileage rates based on changes in costs of operating a vehicle. Beginning January 1, 2013, for example, you can deduct 56.5 cents per mile for business miles driven and 24 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes. The IRS based the standard mileage rate for business on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs as determined by the same study. The 14 cents is written right in the Internal Revenue Code (without language suggesting it be adjusted for inflation). See IRC Section 170(i) — which is part of the charitable deduction section of the Code. It hasn’t been changed in years. To get it changed, Congress will have to amend it — time to talk with your Congressperson.

You can use actual costs rather than 14 cents per mile

The 14 cents per mile charitable rate is optional. Instead, a volunteer can deduct actual variable costs of operating the car for volunteer purposes. These include gasoline and oil and all taxes thereon. They do not include general repair and maintenance ex­penses, depreciation, registration fees, or the costs of tires or insurance.

  • Actual variable costs are likely higher than 14 cents per mile. For example, if the volunteer’s car gets 20 miles per gallon and gasoline costs $3.50 per gallon, the cost of gasoline is 17.5 cents per mile.
  • By comparison, the medical and moving rate (which is also based on variable costs, but is not limited to a rate set by statute) is now 23 cents per mile.
  • Fixed costs (such as depreciation or lease payments, insurance, and license and registration fees) are not allowed for charitable, medical or moving mileage calculations.

Mileage rate history

Start Date

IRS Standard Mileage Rate (cents per mile)

Business

Medical and Moving

Charity Volunteer

January 1, 2017

53.5

17

14

January 1, 2016

54

19

14

January 1, 2015

57.5

23

14

January 1, 2014

56

23.5

14

January 1, 2013

56.5

24

14

January 1, 2012

55.5

23

14

July 1, 2011

55.5

23.5

14

January 1, 2011

51

19

14

January 1, 2010

50

16.5

14

January 1, 2009

55

24

14

July 1, 2008

58.5

27

14

January 1, 2008

50.5

19

14

January 1, 2007

48.5

20

14

For rates prior to 2007 (including special Hurricane Katrina rates in effect in 2005 and 2006) see this IRS document.


375 Comments

  1. Dhun (Dana) Mehta
    February 4, 2012 @ 7:48 pm

    Great description of what auto miles and expenses I can deduct. Can you provide info as to what line on Schedule A this goes on? It does not fit the description of either line 16 or 17 but could be line 17. then, if expense is over $500 (I drive a lot) do I have to show it on form 8283 and where? Thanks.

    • Edward Long
      February 6, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

      On Schedule A for Form 1040 for 2011 – if you want to deduct miles and out-of-pocket expenses, Line 16 appears to be the place. Suggest you provide a supplement that explains the total amount you enter in Line 16.
      Here’s a link to the IRS Schedule A instructions (see page A-8 for Lines 16 and 17):
      As you noted, Form 8283 applies to Line 17.
      As always, we provide general information, not advice on specific cases — consult your tax advisor.

    • Tiffany
      February 11, 2015 @ 7:02 am

      I am running into the same issue! My volunteer mileage combined between various organizations totals over $500 but there is no spot on Form 8283 that makes sense to include that. It won’t submit my taxes online because my amount of noncash contributions totals over $500, but the form doesn’t have a spot for it! If anyone knows how to handle this, please let us know!

      • Edward Long
        February 11, 2015 @ 7:26 am

        Hi Tiffany,
        I think the February 2012 answer for Dhun still applies. Volunteer mileage costs (considered out of pocket expenses) go in Line 16 on Schedule A. Here’s a link to the current Schedule A instructions > http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040sca.pdf. The instructions for Line 16 include this language: “Enter on line 16 the total value of gifts you made in cash or by check (including out-of-pocket expenses).”
        Happy volunteering,
        Ed

    • Rahul
      May 21, 2015 @ 2:33 pm

      Actually it is fairly convenient to track mileage deductions using an iPhone app. I use milebuddy app.. allows you to track mileage, graph out trip expenses, and even export the data to CSV
      https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/milebuddy-mileage-tracker/id567680604?mt=8

    • Pat
      March 9, 2017 @ 4:57 am

      Here it is AGAIN, 2016 1040 schedule A, what line do I put over $500 of volunteer mileage on schedule A? For 8283 makes no sense for this.

    • Pat
      March 12, 2017 @ 7:07 am

      I have the same issue, over $1000 in volunteer miles and non cash items ( furniture, housewares, clothing) to our church and form 8283 doesn’t make sense. What do I do?

      • Edward Long
        March 26, 2017 @ 4:48 pm

        Pat,
        I believe the February 11, 2015 answer to Tiffany should still apply to the mileage. Schedule A, Line 16 for the mileage.
        Hoping this helps,
        Ed

  2. Danny McDuffie
    March 20, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

    Can volunteering to help neighbors on a regular basis be counted as charitable contributions,(i.e. supplying trips to medical treatment, around-the-house upkeep, etc.)? If so, how does one go about claiming time, expenses,etc.?

    • Edward Long
      March 27, 2012 @ 10:07 am

      Danny –
      It sounds like you are a terrific neighbor.
      ** No one can deduct the value of their time when volunteering (see the initial paragraph of the above article).
      ** A volunteer can deduct costs for volunteering for Qualified Organization (see paragraph #2 in the above article).
      ** You might check around in your community to see if there is a Qualified Organization that helps people in the ways you like to. If you help people as a volunteer for a Qualified Organization, you can then deduct mileage and other costs as outlined above.
      Ed

  3. Mel
    June 17, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

    My husband and I both volunteer for two qualified organizations (I am the unpaid Event Director of one). Some of the volunteer events are out of town and run multiple days where we have to travel and find a lodging/hotel, etc. However, in order for us to leave town for the volunteer event, we must board our dog…are these types of expenses deductible since in order for us to volunteer we incurr them?

    • Edward Long
      June 19, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

      Mel –
      The travel and lodging/hotel costs should be deductible (assuming you’re not combining the trip with other purposes).

      Initially, I thought the dog boarding expenses would also be deductible but am concerned by this question and answer in Table 2 on page 5 of IRS Publication 526:

      Question: I pay a babysitter to watch my children while I do volunteer work for a qualified organization. Can I deduct these costs?
      Answer: No, you cannot deduct payments for child care expenses as a charitable contribution, even if they are necessary so you can do volunteer work for a qualified organization.

      Almost everyone understands that dogs are different from children, but I’m not sure that the IRS rules would be more lenient for dog boarding than for child care. Seems like an odd result though, take the dog with you and find a hotel that accepts pets and you’re OK deducting the lodging cost; board the dog near home and you’re not OK deducting the boarding costs. Ah, I forgot that primary concept — this is tax law, it doesn’t have to make sense. 🙂

      As always, we provide general information, not advice on specific cases — consult your tax advisor.

  4. kiiwii
    June 20, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

    My husband is paid for one task, but also does a class (volunteer) at an non-profit on the same day. Can he deduct his mileage or 1/2?

    • Edward Long
      June 20, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

      kiiwii –
      This is a bit trickier than it may seem. I’m thinking that maybe business mileage applies, and the business rate is about 4 times as high as the volunteer rate. So, please help me better understand the facts.

      Your husband is paid for one task — is that at the non-profit, or a different organization?
      If it’s a different organization, is it his only paid job or does he have other paid jobs?
      If it’s two or more different organizations, please give an example of his driving miles from home — to the paid task(s) — to the non-profit — then back to home.

      Thanks.

      • John Broughton
        January 15, 2013 @ 9:45 am

        Keep in mind that commuting mileage (driving to and from a job) is NOT deductible. That includes mileage to and from part-time jobs, and even jobs at different locations (for example, a general contractor who works on different projects during a year).

        What would make the situation you describe a bit trickier is if – as asked – the paid location (“A”) is different than the volunteer location (“B”). (If they are the same, then NO mileage costs are deductible.) The IRS rules are clear for those getting paid at both A and B – only the mileage BETWEEN A and B is deductible. The mileage TO site A is commuting, and the mileage from B to home is also commuting.

        So the safest thing (as unlikely as an IRS audit may be), assuming A and B are different locations, would be to only deduct mileage between A and B.

  5. Rosie
    July 17, 2012 @ 8:27 am

    I have volunteered for a non-profit theater for many years and am used to keeping records of and taking the mileage deduction. Last year I began working on some productions on the backstage crew, for which I receive a small stipend per performance “for expenses,” and my per-show contract lists me as a “paid volunteer.” Because this is a “sporadic activity or hobby” I have determined that the “nonemployee compensation” shown in Box 7 of my 1099-MISC should be reported on Form 1040, Line 21. But here comes the big question. Do I deduct my mileage for the “paid volunteer” activity as volunteer mileage or as business mileage (and can I still deduct it at all, or is it now considered “commuting”)? Thanks!

    • Edward Long
      July 17, 2012 @ 10:53 am

      Rosie –
      Can you distinguish between trips that are “purely volunteer” and those that are “paid volunteer”? Or are you always going to/from the theater as a “paid volunteer”?

      • Rosie
        July 19, 2012 @ 7:06 am

        Serious- Yes, I can. My datebook shows the paid performances, unpaid rehearsals and other performances when I only ushered (also unpaid). Thanks!

        • Edward Long
          July 19, 2012 @ 4:16 pm

          Rosie –
          A few thoughts for you:
          ** Continue to keep track of your miles, noting which are for the paid work and which are for the volunteer work.
          ** Use the business rate for deducting the paid miles (remember, you can’t deduct the commuting portion).
          ** Use the charity / volunteer rate for the volunteer miles (or, if you are up to it, the actual variable costs — “You can use actual costs . . .” above).
          ** Put a dollar value on (a) the time and energy you’ll spend keeping track of miles and costs and (b) the tax benefits you’ll receive (the amount of the deduction times your effective income tax rate). If (b) isn’t bigger than (a), consider spending your time on things that are more fun.

          • Rosie
            July 20, 2012 @ 6:49 am

            Many thanks!

  6. Ellis
    July 20, 2012 @ 11:54 am

    Odometer readings:
    Thank you for this informative article. I do have a question regarding record keeping and mileage. Unfortunately we have not been very diligent in keeping travel records during our involvement with our children’s non’profit youth organization, Job’s Daughters. So my questions is, how important is keeping track of the odometer reading when traveling to and from non-profit activities and traveling about town for them? I told my wife she should be good with just going through her calendar for the last 7 months and finding all the times she’s attended activities. Then she can just use a map program to determine the mileage between home and the activity and log it. Am I giving her correct information?

    • Edward Long
      July 24, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

      Ellis –
      It boils down to being able to back up (prove) the miles driven, in case the IRS asks for more information about the deduction.
      The best proof is a carefully and concurrently kept written record.
      Very strong = a written log kept each day showing odometer readings, the miles driven and the activities. Very weak = a guess you make on April 14 of the following year. Very sane = some place in between, but closer to the strong end of the scale.
      Given that your wife doesn’t have the best already in place, what you’ve proposed sounds very sane. Especially if her calendar was kept concurrently as her activities unfolded.
      Do a calculation of the round trip distance to each location (using the shortest route, or the route your wife always takes) using MapQuest, Google Maps or other calculation that you can back up. Then do the arithmetic.
      Moving forward, stick with the concurrent calendar showing where she went. At the end of the year she’ll have a pretty good record.
      We hope this helps.
      As always, we provide general information, not advice on specific cases — consult your tax advisor.

  7. Jerud
    August 9, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    I volunteer for a diaster relief non-for-profit. I specialize in storm debris clean up. I would like to get an equipment trailer and a grapple bucket for my tractor, so I can take it along to help with heavy trees and other large debris. Is there anyway of writing off those expenses? I would have no personal use for either if I was not doing this volunteer work.

    • Edward Long
      August 9, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

      Jerud –
      The answer could very well be “Yes” — follow these steps:

      • 1. Make sure the organization is a Qualified Organization (see #2) above.
      • 2. Remember that you can only do a write off as a charitable contribution only if you itemize deductions.
      • 3. Assuming both the above apply, the cleanest way would probably be to check with the organization and see if they would like to own the equipment, and figure out how they’ll store it. If they would be open to owning it and you can work out an acceptable storage arrangement — you could then buy the equipment for them, in their name. Make sure you are paying a fair price for it, from an unrelated party. You’d be able to deduct the full purchase price.

      We suggested you give the organization ownership and control so you can make the best case with the IRS. If you haven’t given up all the value of the equipment, you haven’t made a total gift. The IRS could easily question whether you had ongoing usage of the equipment for your own purposes, or the right to obtain proceeds if you sold it.

      As always, we provide general information, not advice on specific cases — consult your tax advisor.

  8. Tom
    August 22, 2012 @ 10:32 am

    My wife works as a teacher at a non-profit school and due to a drop in the number of students she will be working as a volunteer teacher. I assume we can itemize the miles she drives based on the dicussion above, but I am wondering about material she buys to supply her class room? Also we are considering buying her a computer that would be primarly be used for school (in class as well as preparing material)? Can we itemize this as well?

    • Edward Long
      August 28, 2012 @ 5:42 am

      Tom —
      I’ll assume you’ve checked out the two basic starting issues: is it a Qualified Organization?, and do you itemize deductions?

      • 1. Yes, track the volunteer miles. Concurrent, written records work best.
      • 2. Concerning the materials, keep good records of amounts paid and what is purchased. The strongest case will be for items that could only be used in / for the class room.
      • 3. The computer is a tough one — when you note that it will be “primarily” for the volunteer work. I think you’ll have a hard time because of the split between volunteer and personal use. You could keep a time log — but remember that the computer will have a useful life of several years, so one year’s usage sharing might be challenged with the question: how do we know what you’ll do with it for the next 4 years? Like the reply to Jerud, if you bought the computer in the name of the school at the very beginning, so it owned it and controlled its use for school purposes, you’d have a solid deduction. But then you wouldn’t have the use of the computer for personal purposes.

      Readers: any suggestions?

      • John Broughton
        January 15, 2013 @ 9:57 am

        Regarding the computer, IRS Publication 526 says that your out-of-pocket expenses can be deducted only if (among other things) you incurred those expenses “only because of the services you gave” to the charitable organization. So, unfortunately, “primarily” for volunteer work almost certainly isn’t good enough. If you want to deduct the computer cost, you should buy the computer for the school.

  9. Bruce
    November 30, 2012 @ 9:05 am

    I volunteer for a private school,(503c) driving their students to activities, sports, educational in nature. Can I deduct an hourly rate for doing this? For instance another private school I worked for paid me $15.00 per hour door to door for driving their students. Can I apply this rate as a deduction while I am volunteering my time?

    • Edward Long
      November 30, 2012 @ 10:05 am

      Bruce –
      You can not deduct the value of your time or services donated to a charity. Volunteers are often surprised about this. Of course, since the volunteer wasn’t paid for the services, they didn’t receive taxable income. No taxable income, no tax deduction – a simple, clean result.
      Not the answer you want – but it’ll save you a bunch of record-keeping.

  10. Ray Flischel
    December 8, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

    This is a little involved. I volunteer as a track coach at a state university, therefore it is a govt entity and a charitable institution. I live 250 miles from the university and travel back and forth, but since the distance is so great I rent a small apartment at the university and stay a couple of weeks at a time. My main home, wife and friends are still where they have been for years. This is something I do not get paid for and just love track. Are my mileage expenses, living expenses away from home and food costs deductible as a charitable contribution?

    In order to give full disclosure, I also hope to get a job as a track coach at the university next year and my son is on scholarship at the university for track. He does not live with me, he is on full scholarship and lives in a dorm and has a full meal plan. He also has his own car and very seldom do we travel back and forth together as schedules just do not permit. On the occasion that he would come home with me I would understand that these miles would not count.

    • Edward Long
      December 13, 2012 @ 10:15 am

      Ray –
      Let’s handle the easier part first. As a volunteer (even though you hope to get a job with the university), you can deduct your vehicle expenses to and from the volunteer work. Use the 14 cents per mile or, likely more beneficial, actual variable costs as spelled out above in the article.

      The more challenging part relates to your personal and living costs when you are at the university location. Note that the rules say you can deduct costs if they are not personal, living or family expenses. The Out-of-Pocket Expenses in Giving Services section of IRS Publication 526 contains several examples that you should review (starts on page 4 of the Publication). It appears that the portion of your day that you spend on the volunteer activities could be an important factor (if you spend the full day, it’s more likely you could deduct the housing cost). Perhaps a portion of your food costs would be deductible.

      As always, we provide general information, not advice on specific cases — consult your tax advisor.

      • John Broughton
        January 15, 2013 @ 10:14 am

        The subsection in IRS Publication 526 on “Deductible Travel Expenses” says that lodging costs and meals are types of costs that can be deductible, under some circumstances. But at the top of the section (“Travel”) is this:

        “Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses … only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel.”

        The sticking point is that your son is at the university, and thus your expenses for lodging and other away-from-home costs give you the opportunity to spend time with him that you otherwise would not be able to. Also, note that the IRS knows that your son is at that university, because the university issues an IRS Form 1098-T each year to document your son’s scholarship.

      • Patti
        January 29, 2017 @ 9:08 pm

        I have a question regarding lodging costs while performing volunteer work away from home. My husband and I volunteer at a remote State operated Fish Hatchery which qualifies as a non-profit government agency. We understand we can count mileage from our primary home a distance of 150 miles. To provide for our lodging we bought a used RV to house us the 4 days a week that we were at the hatchery? We spent 6 months of 2016, 4 full days a week in this volunteer effort returning to our home 3 days a week to care for it. At the end of this volunteer effort we sold the RV at a loss of $10,000. Can this be counted as lodging expenses?

  11. Donna
    December 18, 2012 @ 9:43 am

    I take care of my mother who is blind and has Heart problems 24/7. I drive to her house everyday and take her to doctors appt and shopping. Can a write off the miles and gas. My mother lives in a low income housing so I pay for gas and anything she cant afford.

    • Edward Long
      December 18, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

      Donna –
      You are doing wonderful things helping your mother.
      ** The costs of the good things you are doing, however, won’t qualify for a charitable deduction because your mother is not a qualified organization. I don’t believe any individual can be a qualified organization.
      ** You might look into whether your mother could be treated as your dependent for tax purposes (in which case you might deduct medical and related transportation costs), or whether in some way you might use the [child and] dependent care credit. Both these questions are far beyond the scope of SeriousGivers.org — consult your tax advisor.

  12. Mike
    December 27, 2012 @ 11:52 pm

    I volunteer as a scuba diving instructor for a 501(c) non-profit organization. Scuba instructor is not my profession and I don’t take any sort of monetary compensation; my time is completely voluntary. I purchase annual liability insurance specifically for my scuba instruction certification and also pay required annual license fees. Can I deduct the liability insurance cost and license fees? The insurance and fees do not cover any aspects of my life other than my volunteer scuba instruction position.

    • Edward Long
      December 28, 2012 @ 7:47 am

      Mike –
      Based on what you’ve described, it looks like you should be in clear waters :-).
      The tests for other costs a volunteer can deduct appear to apply. Your insurance and license costs appear to be (i) unreimbursed, and (ii) directly connected with the services you give, and (iii) incurred only because of the services you give, and (iv) not personal, living or family expenses.
      One thing for you to double check: You indicate that it’s a 501(c)(3) — make sure it’s a public charity. If it’s a 501(c)(3) private foundation you’re dealing with additional rules.

  13. Erica
    January 8, 2013 @ 11:08 am

    I am a volunteer secretary/treasurer of a 501(c)(3) organization. We do not have a physical office, but I must travel to/from the post office and the bank quite frequently for organizational business. I also travel to our charity events and do site visits prior to the events. Can I deduct the mileage for all of these different types of trips as long as I keep ongoing records?

    • Edward Long
      January 10, 2013 @ 8:47 am

      Erica – Assuming your travel to/from the post office and bank is exclusively for the business of the charity, you should be able to deduct your mileage. Note, as discussed in the article above, deducting your actual variable costs could get you a bigger deduction than the measly 14 cents per mile.

  14. Nody
    January 9, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

    I have a question similar to the teacher above. I am a trustee at my church and am in charge of some acess control and other computer based programs as well as answering several emails throughout the day. In your opinion would a computer purchase be a reasonable decuction to fullfill these duties? I will also mention that my term is for 4 years, i know that was a piece of the question asked earlier. (so this computer would be used for more than just one year.).

    Thanks

    • Edward Long
      January 10, 2013 @ 9:12 am

      Nody – The IRS rules are clear that to deduct other costs they must be (a) incurred only because of the services you gave and (b) not personal, living or family expenses — among other requirements. If you buy the computer and keep it with you, the challenge will be showing that you used it only for church purposes during its useful life (which may extend beyond your 4 year term) and not for personal purposes. And seeking to take a deduction for the full cost of the computer in the year you purchase it would raise other issues.

      Your case would be much, much cleaner if you donated the money to the church and it bought the computer in its own name, and you used it only at the church facilities, and your agreement with the church was that it would only be used for church purposes. You could then deduct the amount of your donation, and do it all in the same year. Kind of a combination of the Jerud question (Aug 9, 2012) and the Tom question (Aug 22, 2012).

  15. KLLT
    January 16, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

    When calculating volunteer time served (# of hours), can you include the time spent commuting to the location of service? (I.e., not a special project location, but simply from your home to the office/main place of business for the charity).

    • Edward Long
      January 16, 2013 @ 7:13 pm

      KLLT – A couple of thoughts for you:
      ** If the calculation of volunteer time is with the thought that there would be a tax deduction for the volunteer, that won’t work. A volunteer can not deduct the value of the time or services they donate to a charity. See the first paragraph of the above article.
      ** If the calculation is so the charity can track / talk about / report the hours its volunteers provide, I think it would be fine for the charity to include commuting time. But I’d discuss it with the charity and find out what the purpose of the tracking is, and whether there are any guidelines that apply.
      Ed

  16. kim
    January 19, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

    If I ride my bike to volunteer (instead of driving) can I still take the mileage deduction on my taxes?

    • Edward Long
      January 20, 2013 @ 9:18 am

      kim – Unfortunately, your low carbon footprint approach produces no mileage deduction. The mileage deduction (14 cents per mile) is in lieu of tracking and deducting actual variable costs of a motor vehicle. You might look at the possibility of deducting other out-of-costs related to your volunteering. And, of course, if you took the bus to and from your volunteer work you could deduct those costs. Happy volunteering! – Ed

  17. Danny
    January 20, 2013 @ 9:41 am

    I’m a non-paid volunteer coach and president of a non profit travel baseball organization and board member of another
    r non profit organization both have IRS tax EIN NUMBERS and both have applied for 501c3 can i deduct mileage for practices,games,board mtgs

    • Edward Long
      January 24, 2013 @ 9:11 am

      Danny – The timing here can get a bit tricky.
      ** You can’t deduct unless the organization actually gets its 501(c)(3) tax-exemption ruling from the IRS.
      ** Once the ruling is received, however, the organization’s qualified status is retroactive to the date it applied for the exemption (or the date it was created/organized, if it filed within 27 months of being created/organized).
      ** Here’s an example: Let’s say the organization was created/organized on Jan 1, 2012 and filed for exemption on May 1, 2012. Whenever it receives a positive determination from the IRS, you can deduct mileage starting Jan 1, 2012. If the organization doesn’t hear from the IRS until after Apr 15, 2013, however, you won’t have a basis to deduct in you file on or before April 15. Extensions / amended returns are a possibility — but could be costly compared to the value of the deduction.
      ** In any event, keep in touch with the organization so you’ll know if and when it receives its determination.
      ** See “Effective date of exemption” on page 24 of IRS Publication 557.

  18. Sam
    January 23, 2013 @ 12:45 am

    I have one full time job and a part time job 90 miles away. Fridays are the only days I work at both jobs- I’m aware that would be the only day I could use the business deduction. I stay with a family member, work Saturday nights into Sunday mornings. Usually on Sundays, I drive the 90 miles, volunteer at a 501(c) charitable organization, then return to my home. I’m unsure if I am I able to minus the 90 miles on Sunday as charitable purposes because I would have to drive the 90 miles if I did not volunteer at that charity. Is that considered a charitable deduction or is it considered a personal commute (nondeductible)? Thank you!

    • Edward Long
      January 24, 2013 @ 9:31 am

      Sam – I may have missed it, but here’s what I understand to be your situation. You drive 90 miles from your home to get to your work location. On Sundays, you drive from your work location on your way back to your home. You stop along the way and volunteer, then continue to home.
      If that’s the case, it appears that your travel on Sundays would not qualify for the charitable mileage deduction, because it would (a) not be not incurred only because of the services you gave and/or (b) be considered personal mileage.
      I’d suggest you investigate further the business mileage aspects of your travel.

  19. Chris
    January 26, 2013 @ 11:29 am

    I drove this Summer from Texas to New York State to volunteer as a camp counselor. While there I spent 2 days in New York City, but otherwise the entire trip was spent traveling to/from camp and volunteering at the camp. I can deduct all those miles? And what about hotel on the way to/from?

    It is, by the way, a qualified organization and I will be itemizing my deductions this year.

    • Edward Long
      January 28, 2013 @ 8:35 am

      Chris – Looks to me like you can deduct 14 cents per mile to and from your Texas location to the volunteer location. Or the actual variable costs related to that mileage (gas alone is probably more than 14 cents per mile). The hotel costs for stays between Texas and the volunteer location also look deductible. Make sure you have good records. – Ed

  20. Kevin
    January 31, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

    My wife does volunteer work for a qualified youth sports organization. She receives a de minimus stipend ($1,500/year) for her work. She is not an employee of the organization. In order to do her work for the organization, she purchases supplies and other items that are used exclusively for this work and travels some. Can these expenses and mileage be deducted as charitable donations or must these be categorized as business expenses on our tax return? Thanks.

    • Edward Long
      February 1, 2013 @ 10:36 am

      Kevin – Tough question. I’ve done a bit of searching and haven’t found anything on this. I don’t have the answer for you.
      I suggest you discuss this with an experienced and capable tax advisor. I do, however, have a few thoughts for consideration:
      ** The stipend appears to be reportable income.
      ** The rules relating to deducting costs of volunteering say the costs must be unreimbursed. The IRS could argue that the stipend = reimbursement for costs.
      ** It does seem that the costs your wife incurs, to the extent they exceed the stipend, might be deducted as charitable contributions. But perhaps she’d be better off deducting them as business expenses (certainly the mileage rate is better than the volunteer mileage rate).
      ** There are also labor law issues here — perhaps the organization has addressed those and everyone is confident that your wife is not an employee. Employees have labor law protections that volunteers do not have.
      -Ed

  21. Tonya
    January 31, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

    I volunteer several hours a week at a non profit 501 c 3 clinic. The mileage is minimal but can the hours I volunteer count as charity?

    • Edward Long
      February 1, 2013 @ 10:11 am

      Tonya – Sorry to say, but there’s no deduction for volunteered services. Volunteers are often surprised about this. Of course, since the volunteer wasn’t paid for the services, they didn’t receive taxable income. No taxable income, no tax deduction – a simple, clean result. – Ed

  22. Lorna
    February 1, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

    I am a volunteer officer for a qualified 501(c)3 nonprofit and have an office in my house. Can I deduct any “home office” expense? (heating, etc.)

    • Edward Long
      February 1, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

      Lorna – The IRS has loosened up the home office business deduction rules starting Jan 1, 2013. Read about the IRS rule changes. Does your charitable volunteer work also build your reputation and support your business? Perhaps you might look at the business rules.

      I don’t see anything in the business home office rules that suggests they would work for volunteer costs. One of the challenges you’ll face are the charitable deduction rules that say the expenses must be (a) incurred only because of the services you gave, and (b) not personal, living or family expenses. So, I’m feeling that successfully taking a charitable home office deduction is a long-shot. It might be worth pursuing if your charitable volunteer work involves the exclusive use of your home office, or a large portion of the use.

      If you choose to pursue the charitable home office deduction, be sure to work with an experienced and capable tax advisor.

  23. Rob
    February 1, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

    My 17 year old dependent son volunteers at a qualified charitable organization. He drives to and from the charitable organization once a week. Is it legal for me to claim the mileage since I am paying for the gas?

    • Edward Long
      February 8, 2013 @ 11:33 am

      Rob – I’ve looked quite a bit and must admit — I’m stumped! 🙁
      Not finding authority on costs related to a dependent child volunteering. Anyone out there have the answer for Rob? Please. – Ed

      • John Broughton
        February 8, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

        This is from IRS Publication 526:

        “You cannot deduct contributions to specific individuals, including the following.

        * Expenses you paid for another person who provided services to a qualified organization.

        Example. Your son does missionary work. You pay his expenses. You cannot claim a deduction for your son’s unreimbursed expenses related to his contribution of services.”

        Your situation isn’t commonly discussed, as was pointed out above. However, there is a lot of discussion on the Web about something similar: If your dependent child makes a charitable contribution, can you can claim that contribution on your taxes? The universal answer is “no” – you have to personally make the contribution. And so the answer in this case is also “no” – you can’t claim mileage, even if the car your son drives belongs to you and you pay for gasoline, insurance, etc.

        That conclusion may seem illogical. But the rationale (which may not interest you) is that your son is presumed to be willing to pay the cost of gasoline (as a volunteer), and therefore that your paying for gasoline was a gift to your son. Gifts to individuals, of course, aren’t deductible. (And no, the IRS wouldn’t be interested in a statement from your son saying that the only way that he’d do this volunteer work is if he personally didn’t have any direct costs.)

        • Molly
          January 19, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

          I have a similar question – my 15-year old child volunteers (and cannot drive), so I drive her to the place where she volunteers. Since I drove her, can I claim those miles for her volunteerism?

          • Edward Long
            January 20, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

            Molly –
            In John’s February 8, 2013 response above, he was quoting directly from IRS Publication 526. You can see the precise Publication 526 language under “Contributions to individuals” in the middle column on page 6.
            No one here has yet come up with a different answer.
            Of course, if you also were volunteering for the organization at the same time, you could deduct your mileage.
            I hope you find this helpful,
            Ed (aka Serious)

          • Edward Long
            January 20, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

            Molly –
            In John’s February 8, 2013 response above, he was quoting directly from IRS Publication 526. You can see the precise Publication 526 language under “Contributions to individuals” in the middle column on page 6.
            No one here has yet come up with a different answer.
            Of course, if you also were volunteering for the organization at the same time, you could deduct your mileage.
            I hope you find this helpful,
            Ed (aka Serious)

  24. MHL
    February 7, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

    I am a volunteer wrestling coach for a public school. To be the coach I had to take several classes that are required by the state. Are the cost of these classes deductible?

    • Edward Long
      February 8, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

      MHL – To deduct “other costs” as a charitable contribution they must be: (i) unreimbursed, and (ii) directly connected with the services you gave, and (iii) incurred only because of the services you gave, and (iv) not personal, living or family expenses. Assuming the class is only so you can volunteer (it doesn’t give you some other personal benefit) and you weren’t reimbursed, sounds like a winner to me. – Ed

  25. Joel
    February 8, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

    My wife is very involved in church and volunteers for the choir and will be volunteering on church council this year. I realize the time she volunteers for these activities are not deductible, however are the travel expenses, mileage, deductible for choir practice and church council meetings. We live approximately 30 miles roundtrip from the church.

    Many thanks,

    Joel

    • Edward Long
      February 8, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

      Joel – Mileage and other out-of-pocket costs should be deductible as a charitable contribution. Remember that you can deduct actual variable costs, plus parking and tolls, etc. Variable costs will typically be more than 14 cents per mile. If gas costs $4/gallon and you get 25 miles/gallon, that’s already 16 cents/mile. Review the article above; keep good records. – Ed

  26. John
    February 9, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

    I have been looking for week for an answer to my question of can I deduct my time as a volunteer EMT. After reading all the questions and answers on your site, I have my answer. Thank you for providing this site. It has been most helpful for me to learn and I can deduct my actual and recorded mileage to and from the station to answer calls and my recorded out of pocket expenses for specific uniforms and supplies for this purpose.

    THANK YOU again for providing this very informative website.

    • Edward Long
      February 9, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

      John – Thanks for your supportive comment.
      If and when you get a chance, please help spread the word about SeriousGivers.org.
      Happy volunteering! – Ed

  27. Nan
    February 16, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

    I am a volunteer EMT in rural area with 2 ambulances (the agency entity is city government) which we run. I received a 1099misc for compensation received for the times I was on the ambulance but not for the time I was on duty. This compensation is not wages. The compensation is based on the miles the ambulance travels from scene to hospital. Since this is income; however, am I allowed to deduct miles I drive to and from ambulance barn and out of pocket expenses for training and specific clothing to keep certification as part of my itemized deductions? What category are these: business expenses or charitable contributions. We EMTs are in a real gray area.
    thank you so much for helping us.

    • Edward Long
      February 16, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

      Nan – Please provide a bit more background. The details will matter.

      1. How exactly does the 1099 describe the compensation?
      2. Does the agency have a written description of the volunteer EMT role and relationship with the agency? What does it say?
      3. Does the agency have a written description of the compensation? What does it say?

      Thanks. — Ed

  28. Vicki
    February 18, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

    I gave my car for the use of a nonprofit during their upstart months last year. They had total use of the car to carry out their business such as fundraising. I offered to do this instead of their needing to rent a car. Is it legal for them to give me a charitable contribution receipt for the fair market value (actually much less than FMV) of using the car (approx. $250 per month? I do itemize. They are a certified not for profit.

    • Edward Long
      February 20, 2013 @ 10:11 am

      Vicki – What an intriguing question. Perhaps others will have clever ideas for you. I have a couple of thoughts for you:
      ** Not all nonprofits are eligible to receive donations that are deductible as charitable contributions. See FAQ #2 above. Check the organization’s status.
      ** I’m getting stuck on the IRS vehicle use rules — and they don’t help your case. If you had used the car yourself for the benefit of the organization, you could have deducted 14 cents per mile or your actual variable costs (such as the cost of gas and oil) directly related to the use of your car. With the organization using the car, if you (and not the organization) paid for those variable costs, certainly you could deduct them. But you would not have been allowed to deduct general repair and maintenance expenses, depreciation, registration fees, or the costs of tires or insurance.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed

  29. Bill
    February 18, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

    My wife and I are both certified therapy dog handlers and we have a dog that was certified by a non-profit therapy dog organization. We take the dog to a non-profit hospital for patient visits. I know that we can deduct our annual dues and probably our actual variable travel expenses but is there any other deductions that we may qualify for?

    • Edward Long
      February 19, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

      Bill – A couple of thoughts for you:
      ** The volunteer work you do appears to be for the nonprofit hospital. Remember that not all nonprofits are eligible to receive tax deductible charitable contributions. Check the hospital’s status at CharityCheck101.org. Whether or not the hospital is eligible will show up in the first line of its Tax Status tab.
      ** Assuming that the hospital is eligible, think of any out-of-pocket costs you or your wife paid related to your volunteer work. You should be able to deduct those costs as charitable contributions if you itemize and if they are (i) unreimbursed, and (ii) directly connected with the services you gave, and (iii) incurred only because of the services you gave, and (iv) not personal, living or family expenses. Certainly your transportation costs to and from the volunteer work and your costs of certification (assuming they only relate to your volunteer work) sound appropriate. Do you also pay for parking? Do you pay for treats for the dog? Other items?
      I hope this is helpful to you. — Ed

      • Bill
        February 20, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

        I checked CharityCheck101.org and the hospital is eligible. We do not pay for parking, however there are other possible deductions.
        The hospital requires that the therapy dog must be bathed before working, must be on a leash or harness, must be current on all canine vaccinations, and must have regular health checks by a vet. Would these be considered valid deductions?

        Thank you for your help.

        • Edward Long
          February 20, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

          Bill – Please forgive my ignorance of “dog things.” I’m going to assume that the dog is also your pet. Given that assumption, you’ll need to look carefully whether the dog bathing, leash or harness, vaccinations and health checks are (a) incurred only because of the services you gave, and (b) not personal, living or family expenses (these are the same as tests (iii) and (iv) described above). Basically, to the extent these things are extra work you do because of the volunteer work, you should be able to deduct the extra costs. If they’re just normal things in keeping and caring for a dog, they wouldn’t be deductible.
          I hope this helps. — Ed

  30. Chris
    February 18, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

    Thank you for the informative website (and continuing to answer questions more than a year after your original post). I just became a director for a 501(c)3 at the end of last year. During my start with the organization, prior to becoming a legal entity in a new state, I had various permit expenses followed by operational expenses. All of these expenses are tax deductible for the organization; however, I paid for each of these out of my pocket (essentially as a donation). I am now trying to understand how to report these on my tax return.

    Since I paid the items directly for the organization, I don’t know if it is proper to report as a donation to the organization, and write myself a receipt?
    Or do these items need to be reported somewhere on my personal return differently?

    Thanks for any advice or direction you can point me.

    • Edward Long
      February 20, 2013 @ 9:29 am

      Chris – If I understand your question correctly, out of your pocket you paid costs of the organization before it was organized. If that’s the case, there might not be any charitable contribution deduction available – accordingly, nothing to report. See FAQ # 3 above. If it was not formally understood that you had made a donation, you might consider asking the organization to reimburse you now for those costs. You can always make a separate donation this year, for whatever purpose you wish. Not exactly the answer you were hoping for. Perhaps others will have helpful suggestions. — Ed

  31. Patrick
    February 19, 2013 @ 11:45 am

    My daughter gave a solo public performance that was free and open to the public at a local school theater. We rented the theater and school cafeteria (for a reception thereafter) at the non-profit rate under the umbrella of an organization that typically sponsors such events thanks to the Director of the theatrical company who sits on the board of this non-proft organization. Hence we paid the non-profit rate of $2000 not $6000. The check was made directly to the school district from us. In retrospect we could have made the check to the non-profit organization and could have asked them to cut a check to the theater.
    Can we deduct at least the cost of the theater rental? We spent over $15000 on the event including costumes, food for the reception, invitations, brochures, stage management-light/sound and advertisement.
    Admission was free but funds were collected on a voluntary basis for a public charity that may or may not be registered instead of flowers/gifts.

    The coummunity benefit was the artisitc performance. Our benefit was that our daughter did a remarkable accomplishment. Is there anything we can deduct or could we have done things somewhat diffrently to deduct all or most of the expenses?

    • Edward Long
      February 20, 2013 @ 10:30 am

      Patrick – What a nice thing you’ve done for your community, and for your daughter. Unfortunately, you’ve got me pretty stumped for aspects that might be deductible as charitable contributions by you. 🙁
      Perhaps others will have clever thoughts.
      Here’s the best I could come up with:
      ** Let’s assume that the “public charity” is a qualified organization (see FAQ #2 above). If the public charity had a role in the event, perhaps a portion of your costs might be considered to have been donated to the public charity to help it raise funds. You’ll need a written acknowledgment from them to be able to deduct any meaningful amount.
      ** Let’s assume the school district is a government unit. If you paid in excess of the fair market value of the rental of the theater and cafeteria, perhaps the excess might be deductible. I’m not sure how you’d work that valuation issue out.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed

  32. Johnny
    February 19, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

    If we housed a foreign coach for a few months for a non-profit soccer organization, would the expenses for this (food, etc..) be tax deductible? Thanks!

    • Edward Long
      February 20, 2013 @ 9:45 am

      Johnny – A couple of thoughts for you:
      ** Is the organization a Qualified Organization (eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions)? Many nonprofits are not. See FAQ #2 above.
      ** If it is a Qualified Organization, your out-of-pocket expenses (food, etc.) would be deductible if you itemize and if they were (i) unreimbursed, and (ii) directly connected with the services you gave, and (iii) incurred only because of the services you gave, and (iv) not personal, living or family expenses. Item (iv) sounds the most challenging related to the food — probably requiring you to be able to separate out the costs of the food for the foreign coach.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed

      • Johnny
        February 20, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

        Thank you for your help! The soccer organization is a qualified organization and I have the EIN number for other donations made. I didn’t receive any reimbursement but your right it might be difficult to separate costs for meals because although he ate a lot it’s hard to say how much more we spent on groceries while he stayed with us. I had seen somewhere that if you host a student exchange student there is a ~$50 per month you could deduct and I was wondering if it was something I could do?

        • Edward Long
          February 20, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

          Johnny – The “student” rule I think you are referring to applies to those in 12th grade or lower (see page 4 of IRS Publication 526). I’m thinking that the IRS would most likely treat your costs of food for the coach as a donation to an individual, and those are not deductible. Sorry. — Ed

  33. Johnny
    February 19, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

    Sorry but one more question, my daughter’s public high school does not have buses for sport use and so could we deduct the miles taking her and teammates to the various games?

    • Edward Long
      February 20, 2013 @ 11:10 am

      Johnny – A couple of thoughts for you:
      ** Does the school do anything formal to indicate that parents taking participants / teammates to school events is a volunteer activity supporting the school? That would sure help your case.
      ** Otherwise, seems to me you’re going to have trouble showing that the mileage is (a) as a volunteer for the school and (b) not a personal or family expense.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed

  34. Jabax
    February 20, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

    The “Purpose of Form” section of form 8283 instruction says to treat out of pocket expenses for volunteering as cash contributions. That means Schedule A line 16 to me.

    • Edward Long
      February 20, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

      Jabax – I would agree. The Schedule A instructions for Line 16 say: “Gifts by Cash or Check — Enter on line 16 the total gifts you made in cash or by check (including
      out-of-pocket expenses
      ).” [I added the bold font.] — Ed

  35. Elaine
    February 24, 2013 @ 11:38 am

    I drive my 14 year old daughter at least once a week to do volunteer work for a qualified charity about 30 miles round trip from our home. Can I deduct the expense of driving her since she is a dependent of mine?

    • Edward Long
      February 24, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

      Elaine – See the discussion above started by Rob on February 1, 2013. The conclusion there was no deduction for the parent. — Ed

      • Elaine
        February 24, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

        You are probably correct but I wonder if my situation would be different because a 14 year old is unable to drive. I’m not just paying for gas but actually transporting her which is something she would be unable to do on her own because of her age.

        • Edward Long
          February 25, 2013 @ 8:50 am

          Elaine – I don’t have a better answer for you than provided above. 🙁
          Perhaps someone else will have an idea for you? — Ed

        • Molly
          January 19, 2014 @ 1:57 pm

          I have the exact same question, Elaine. What did you end up doing?

  36. Jonathan
    February 25, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

    My wife and I volunteer for our high school band boosters. Last year the band went on the big trip to Disneyworld which is done every 3 years. While our daughter went, my wife and I went as chaperones and paid about $1200 each. We each had kids we were responsible for, signed official papers, dispensed medication, and kept track of a group of kids many times during each day while at Disneyworld playing music or just having fund in the park. One of the kids was ours but the others were not. We also dealt with problems and there were some. The $1200 per person covered travel, lodging, food, and tickets to Disneyworld. Are we able to deduct this as a volunteer expense?

    • Edward Long
      March 2, 2013 @ 9:02 am

      Jonathan – A few thoughts for you,
      ** Double check that the high school is a qualified organization. See FAQ #2 above.
      ** IRS Publication 525 (page 5) has related information (not exactly on point, but helpful).
      ** When you piece it all together, it appears that you could be able to deduct much of your cost but this will depend on the exact circumstances.
      ** For example: “Conventions. If a qualified organization se­lects you to attend a convention as its represen­tative, you can deduct your unreimbursed ex­penses for travel, including reasonable amounts for meals and lodging, while away from home overnight for the convention. How­ever, see Travel, later.”
      ** Then under “Travel” it says: “Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses nec­essarily incurred while you are away from home performing services for a charitable organiza­tion only if there is no significant element of per­sonal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel …. The deduction for travel expenses will not be denied simply because you enjoy providing services to the charitable organization. Even if you enjoy the trip, you can take a charitable contribution deduction for your travel expenses if you are on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip. However, if you have only nominal duties, or if for significant parts of the trip you do not have any duties, you cannot deduct your travel expenses.” The following Example 1 related to overnight camping trips is helpful.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed

  37. Nancy
    February 28, 2013 @ 11:31 am

    If a volunteer is put on payroll and then donates his paycheck back via a personal check back to the organization, are there any issues with requesting matching funds from typical corporate matching programs?

    • Edward Long
      March 2, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

      Nancy – A few thoughts for you:
      ** In my experience, corporate matching programs are there to match donations by their current (and sometimes past) employees.
      ** If you are concerned about a specific person, check the specifics of that person’s current and past employer matching programs.
      ** I’m not sure what the specifics of the “typical” corporate matching program might be.
      ** Putting a volunteer on the payroll raises a whole bunch of labor law (are they an employee, entitled to benefits and labor rights, etc.) and income tax issues (W-2, 1099, withholding, taxable income to the former volunteer, etc.).
      ** If we’re talking about small amounts of money here, seems like a whole lot of potential issues for a small benefit.
      ** Is there a business reason (other than to get the matching funds) to put the volunteer on the payroll? If not, this likely fails the “smell test” — and creates an issue of whether this might damage the reputation or credibility of the organization.
      I hope you find this helpful — Ed

  38. Kristie
    March 5, 2013 @ 7:47 am

    My kids attend a nonprofit school that has a 501(c)(3). I volunteer during the day at the school while they are in class. We all drive to the school together, can I deduct my milage to and from my home and the school?

    • Edward Long
      March 6, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

      Kristie – I don’t think you’ll get that deduction. Your mileage like fails part (c) and/or part (d) of the basic test (see above).
      Part (c) because it’s not incurred only because of your volunteer services.
      Part (d) because it probably is a personal, living or family expense.
      Sorry. And thank you, answering your good question led me to clarify the “basic test” discussion. — Ed

  39. Amanda
    March 5, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

    I have a question about in-kind donations. When the qualified noprofit organization executive director is invited to give an educational speech she may stay at a friend’s home instead of in a hotal overnight. Is this an in-kind donation from her friend that the friend can claim as a deduction to a nonprofit? Is it legal to give her a receipt for tax deduction(the cost of donation would be compared with market value). Thanks in advance.

    • Edward Long
      March 6, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

      Amanda – A few thoughts for you:
      ** I believe that hosting the executive director in your home for a night would be treated much like donating your services. No deduction (see FAQ #1 above).
      ** If you incur out-of-pocket expenses of hosting the executive (beyond what you would have incurred for your personal use) — for instance, you buy a meal for them — you might have a charitable deduction. But, I think the better argument is that you have made a donation to an individual — and that would not be deductible.
      ** Bottom line, I wouldn’t ask for or take a donation receipt.
      ** Maybe a better approach to this: if the the qualified organization is one you support, you’ll save them money by hosting the executive director. Money they can now use for their programs.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed

  40. chris
    March 6, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

    I volunteer at a horse rescue that is recognized as a charity by the IRS. I drive 28 miles each direction to it at least twice a week. Can I take a mileage deduction for this?

    • Edward Long
      March 6, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

      chris – Absolutely! That of course assumes that you meet all four parts of the basic test shown near the top of this page. You will probably do better using your actual variable costs rather than 14 cents per mile (see “You can use actual costs . . . ” above). — Ed

      • chris
        March 6, 2013 @ 10:39 pm

        Thanks, I’m guessing variable costs means like actual receipts for gas and such?

        • Edward Long
          March 7, 2013 @ 11:15 am

          chris – A volunteer can deduct variable costs of operating the car for volunteer purposes. Variable costs include gasoline and oil and taxes thereon. They exclude things like tires, general maintenance and repairs, depreciation or lease payments, insurance, and license and registration fees. You’d need to keep records of costs and of mileage (including your total mileage during the year) so you can do the actual cost calculations. — Ed
          P.S. This reply was corrected on Apr 4, 2013, thanks to a comment from TaxLady. — Ed

          • TaxLady
            April 4, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

            This is not exactly correct. Per irs pub 526: Car expenses. You can deduct as a charitable contribution any unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of gas and oil, directly related to the use of your car in giving services to a charitable organization.
            You cannot deduct general repair and maintenance expenses, depreciation, registration fees, or the costs of tires or insurance.

          • Edward Long
            April 4, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

            TaxLady — You are absolutely correct. Thank you! — Ed (aka Serious)

  41. Bonnie
    March 7, 2013 @ 11:26 am

    If someone goes on a motorcycle run for charity, is the mileage deductible if the charity is a recognized 501C3? Usually there is a registration fee. Is this also deductible?

    • Edward Long
      March 8, 2013 @ 11:15 am

      Bonnie – On their face, your questions look pretty simple. In fact, they aren’t. A few thoughts for you:
      ** First, about the registration fee. Did the charity provide you with a lunch or other benefits? We’re dealing with the quid pro quo rules here. Under those rules, you subtract the value of benefits you receive from the amount you paid. If for example the registration fee was $100, and you received lunch and other benefits valued at $40, your charitable deduction for the registration would be $60. This is true, even if the paperwork described the registration fee as a “donation.” For more about the quid pro quo rules, see “Contributions From Which You Benefit” in IRS Publication 526.
      ** Check what the charity said about the fee and value of benefits you received. In general, ticket purchasers and others who give $75 or more are required to be told in writing the value of the benefits they receive. See IRS Publication 1771.
      ** About the mileage. Again, check what (if anything) the charity has said about deducting mileage or other costs of participating. It does seem like your mileage should count as part of your contribution, but I’m stumbling with the fact that volunteer mileage is all about costs of providing volunteer services to a charity. I wonder if the motorcycle run would be considered providing services to the charity — maybe as advertising? Bottom line here — I’m guessing that deducting the mileage provides a very small tax benefit and if it were me I wouldn’t bother to deduct it. Others likely will disagree on this.

  42. Mary Lou
    March 10, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

    My husband and I do volunteer archeology work at three different sites, and I understand that we can take the deduction for mileage. However, we also attended two archeology conferences this year in order to remain current. Can we deduct the cost of attending, and mileage for the conferences?

    • Edward Long
      March 11, 2013 @ 8:20 am

      Mary Lou — A few thoughts for you:
      ** Does the organization you volunteer for require you to attend the conferences? Does it send you as its representatives? If either is the case, you have a good basis for deducting related costs. See “Conventions” on page 5 of IRS Publication 526.
      ** If you go on your own (not sent by or representing the organization), looks like no deduction unless you can show that the only reason to attend would be to do your volunteer work for the organization. Otherwise the “keeping current” part would not be “incurred only because of the services you gave” to the organization, and would probably be considered a personal expense (see items (c) and (d) of the basic test above).
      ** Do the conferences provide education that helps you earn a living from an existing employer? You might want to look at employee business expenses.
      I hope you and your husband find this helpful. — Ed

  43. Cynde
    March 13, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

    Thank you SO much for this VERY informative article and for all your time in answering specific questions! I have a question and am hoping you can help me with it…I am the youth leader for a church that is a qualified organization and volunteer my time and services in this position.
    I provide a homemade meal and/or dessert at every meeting. Are the groceries I purchase to prepare the meal deductible?

    • Edward Long
      March 14, 2013 @ 8:30 am

      Cynde — If the grocery costs meets all four parts of the “Basic test” (see above), that is they are (a) unreimbursed, and (b) directly connected with the services you gave, and (c) incurred only because of the services you gave, and
      (d) not personal, living or family expenses — you should be able to deduct them as charitable contributions. Based on your description, it sounds like they do meet all four parts. — Ed

  44. Dave
    March 13, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

    I volunteer at church (choir practice on Wednesdays, sing in the choir on Sundays, support other missions of the church such as picking up bread at Panera’s then delivering it to the downtown shelter the next day, plus various committee meetings at the church). I understand that the mileage from my home to the church and back (12 miles RT) is deductible.
    1. If I stop on the way for lunch, it’s no longer STRICTLY for charity ALONE. Is it still deductible? What if I stop for gas, etc.?
    2. If the lunch location is two miles past my church (thereby adding 4 miles to the roundtrip mileage), can I deduct 16 miles?
    3. If the answer to both of these is “yes”, is there a limit as to how far I can go for lunch or is it “within reason”?
    4. Can you refer me to a reference publication?
    5. I also drive 50 miles RT every week to help feed the poor at a different church. I usually eat with them (dinner is provided by the church). So I’m presuming that my mileage (50 x .14 = $7) would not be deductible since the value of the dinner is probably around $7. Correct?
    Thanks.

    • Edward Long
      March 14, 2013 @ 9:09 am

      Dave — You’ve raised excellent and very precise questions.
      ** For items 1, 2 and 3: I grew up in the “keep it simple” school — and my suggestion is that you ignore the additional miles for lunch its complexities. I don’t think stopping for lunch on the way should negate the deduction. Deduct based on 12 miles per trip. That will save you a bunch of record keeping, against a possible deduction gain of maybe 28 cents per trip (if you were in a combined 35% marginal tax bracket, the value of the 28 cents is 9.8 cents).
      ** For item 4: The only reference publication I’m aware of is IRS Publication 463 related to business use of a car. It’s not very helpful in the charitable miles context.
      ** For item 5: Sounds like you’ve joined me in the “keep it simple” school. I agree with your approach. Under the quid pro quo rules, the value of the lunch provided to you is a benefit that would be subtracted from the value your donation. Keep it simple and ignore your miles for that mission.
      Happy volunteering. — Ed

  45. Lana Ward
    March 14, 2013 @ 6:34 am

    My husband and I volunteer for several Search & Rescue groups. We attend training sessions throughout the year, some are mandatory, some are optional but necessary to keep us current with our skills. We also have taken several certification courses/exams that we paid for. Are enrollment fees, exam fees and supplies for these trainings and certifications deductible?

    • Edward Long
      March 14, 2013 @ 9:29 am

      Lana — Answering your question is not as simple as it might seem. A few thoughts for you,
      ** The challenges for you focus around item (c) of the basic test (see above). It requires the costs to be incurred only because of the services you gave to Qualified Organizations.
      ** I hope all of the Search & Rescue groups are Qualified Organizations. See FAQ #2 above. If they are all Qualified Organizations, great. If they are not all Qualified Organizations, the costs you’ve incurred are likely not solely for volunteering for Qualified Organizations. Either they all get ruled out, or you work out some sort of allocation.
      ** Do you use your Search & Rescue training/certifications only for your volunteer services? Or do you also have a private business or employment where they are used? If the former, you’re still on track for a charitable deduction. If the latter, likely no charitable deduction.
      ** If all your training/certifications are used only in volunteer work and only for Qualified Organizations, I think you’re on a sound footing to deduct the costs whether the sessions/certifications are mandatory or not.
      I hope you find this helpful. Happy volunteering! — Ed

  46. Blkhank
    March 16, 2013 @ 9:36 am

    I’m a Mounted deputy and I volunteer my time and my horses time to the Sheriffs department.What can I deduct? I care for and train my horses to do this job. They are mine and I care for them at home.And I transport them and me when we go to work. Thanks for your help

    • Edward Long
      March 17, 2013 @ 11:24 am

      Blkhank — Take a look at the four parts of the basic test (above). Part (c) is “incurred only because of the services you gave” and this needs to be your focus.
      I’m going to assume that you have and keep your horses for personal reasons (not exclusively to volunteer for the Sheriffs department).
      What you can deduct are costs you incurred that are in addition to your normal costs of keeping and caring for your horses. Certainly your actual variable costs of transporting them to your volunteer location, or 14 cents per mile (see above). Look at your other costs that come about solely because of volunteering — you should be able to deduct them also.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed

      • Blkhank
        March 17, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

        Thank you for the information. How is it that k9 officers can claim everything food, vet bills,transportation etc? And I can’t with the horses?

        • Edward Long
          March 17, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

          Blkhank — My earlier answer did contemplate you deducting transportation costs.
          I don’t know the K9 officer details about food or vet bills, etc. Can you find those out and share them? Something the K9 folks might have in writing? Perhaps they have an approach that would also apply to your horse-related volunteer work.
          Do the K9 volunteers own the dogs — or is the owner the government agency? That could be an important difference from your situation.
          Also, I suggest you might want to ask the Sheriffs department if they have any information on volunteer deductions.
          In the meantime — other visitors — any information from K9 volunteers? — Ed

  47. Bubba
    March 20, 2013 @ 11:26 am

    I volunteer at a hospital 20 miles from my home. The only reason for my wife and I to have a second car is this volunteer work. Can I lease a car and deduct those expenses?

    • Edward Long
      March 20, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

      Bubba – Take a look at “You can use actual costs rather than 14 cents per mile” above.
      You can deduct what are called actual variable costs.
      Fixed costs (such as depreciation or lease payments, insurance, and license and registration fees) are not allowed for either charitable, medical or moving mileage calculations.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed

  48. Bob
    March 20, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

    I travel 180 miles round trip each week for hand bell practice at my church in a (obviously) distant city. I am a contributing member, but attend (now) only for a once a month Sunday performance. Is the mileage for this travel deductable? Over the active nine month period, this amounts to about 7000 miles, which would be a nice deduction for a retired person with no pension.

    • Edward Long
      March 20, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

      Bob — I’m trying to get the numbers correct. 7,000 miles is about 39 trips (at 180 miles per trip). If you attend a Sunday service / performance once a month, that’s 12 trips. The would mean about 27 trips for hand bell practice. Assuming your church is a Qualified Organization, I think you’d have a good case for deducting the mileage for the 27 hand bell practice trips. I think the mileage for 12 trips to attend the Sunday services / performances would probably be considered personal expenses and not deductible.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed

      • Bob
        March 20, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

        This is a weekly trip for practice for nine months, and I did not include the Sundays during which I would play and attend worship. It seems to me it’s worth a shot. I can still catch 2012 – missed out on the previous ten years at this distance, and the previous 25 years of about 20 miles RT. The bells are a memorial for my oldest daughter (almost 20, who died 37 yrs ago), and hand chimes were added 13 yrs ago when my first wife died – now my oldest son is playing, and his younger sister and brother were able to play as youths. Nearing 79, I may not be able to make the RT much longer. Thanks for your input.

        • TaxLady
          April 4, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

          Bob, if you decide to take this deduction, you are eligible to amend your previous years’ returns. You may go back to 2009 if you file the amended return by April 15 2012. (We are filing for the 2012 tax year now, so 3 years back is allowed by irs. 4 yrs for CA–check your state.)

  49. Karin
    March 26, 2013 @ 9:51 am

    If our volunteer 401(c)3 board meets at a restaurant to conduct business, can I as a board member deduct the cost of my meal?

    • Edward Long
      March 26, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

      Karin – IRS Publication 526 has your answer (see Personal Expenses) on page 7. It says

      You cannot deduct personal, living, or family expenses, such as the following items.

      • The cost of meals you eat while you per­form services for a qualified organization,
        unless it is necessary for you to be away from home overnight while performing the services.
      • * * *

      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

  50. Dennis
    March 26, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

    How do you split hairs on the gas, oil and maintenance of an automobile or even cell phone costs that you use for volunteer work? For example I volunteer for 3 different qualified organizations every day and most of my day is volunteer work. But, some of the day could be personal regarding the car as well as the cell phone use. Can you use a percentage of the auto expenses and cell phone expenses? For example 50% of my auto expenses and 50% of my cell phone expenses towards my 3 organizations (assuming that I would have to direct a proper percentage to each of the three form those costs). Thank you.

    • Edward Long
      March 28, 2013 @ 8:58 am

      Dennis — A few thoughts for you,
      ** You are on the right track — you will need to split costs between volunteer vs. personal costs.
      ** For the auto costs, you are going to need a record of mileage spent on your volunteer activities and your total mileage for the year. Once you have the volunteer mileage portion, you can apply the mileage rate or apportion actual variable costs (as discussed in the article above).
      ** For the mobile phone, you’ll need to be able to identify the portion of the phone costs related to the volunteer work. The phone could be harder depending on the plan you have. If you pay one monthly rate for all service, and use the phone for personal business, it’s hard to say that there are any costs incurred solely because of the volunteer work. If, on the other hand, your phone plan charges you per minute based on each call — track the minutes related to volunteer work and you should be able to deduct the related costs.
      ** Sound like a pain? Yes it does. You might consider doing some sampling for a few months (assuming your volunteer activities are pretty much the same, year-round), and then apply the sample to the whole year. Click for an article from Nolo on sampling.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

  51. Karen
    March 30, 2013 @ 10:28 am

    Hi….Just working on our taxes today and have some questions… We do itemize.

    1) My husband is Vice president of a 501c3 company. He drives to 3-4 meetings each year. Can he deduct the milage to attend them? We have kept the gas receits.

    2) He also has bought books for his research and has spent money on maps and posters for talks and displays at these meetings. Are these expenses deductable?

    • Edward Long
      March 30, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

      Karen – One clarification please. Is your husband a volunteer for the 501(c)(3)? Or is he in a paid position? Comment back and we’ll take it from there. — Ed (aka Serious)

  52. Karen
    March 30, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

    A volunteer….

    • Edward Long
      March 30, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

      Karen – A few thoughts:
      ** Your husband should be able to deduct his car costs (either using the mileage rate or actual variable costs — see the article above).
      ** The books, maps and posters also need to pass all four parts of the basic test shown above, including part (c) “incurred only because of the services you gave . . . .”
      ** Of course, you want to make sure it is truly a Qualified Organization. You can double check that at CharityCheck101.org — look for a “Yes” in the “Are donations deductible” field.
      I hope you and your husband find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

  53. Tim
    March 31, 2013 @ 11:12 am

    I started a small business for custom photo and video solutions. Not being as proficient as I would like, I am now the official videographer and photographer for a small charitable museum. I also became their marketing coordinator which is great for networking and being able to show off my work. Do I get the 14 cents or 56 cents for mileage? I also have a subscription for software that costs $25 per month. The software is exclusively used for the business which is primarily supporting the charity with free services. What can I deduct? I spent over a hundred hours preparing a presentation for city and county people that control our budget. Thanks!

    Tim Tapio

    • Edward Long
      March 31, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

      Tim – A few thoughts,
      ** First issue for you to resolve is: are you a volunteer (or do you get paid for your work)?
      ** If you’re a volunteer and want to pursue the charitable deduction route, you’re looking at 14 cents per mile or actual variable costs — see the article above.
      ** The software is exclusively used in the business which is “primarily” supporting the charity. You’ll likely have a difficult time passing part (c) of the basic charitable deduction test: “incurred only because of the services you gave . . . ” Of course “primarily” doesn’t equal “only.”
      As a self-employed person you might be better off overall treating the costs as costs of your business (your volunteer work could well be considered as outreach / publicity costs for your business).
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

  54. Tim
    March 31, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

    The software subscription is to support the business. Currently, the ONLY thing it is doing is to allow the business to support the charity.
    I am exclusively a volunteer for this organization.

    And your last statement pretty much sums it all up into a nutshell. The volunteer work is to network and publicity of the type of custom video and photo solutions I offer.

    Is that clear as mud?

  55. Tim
    March 31, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

    Just to expound a little, I offered to do a video documentary of agriculture in the county for the county extension folks. I also asked if they could do a little heads up to the farmers, they don’t care much for strangers showing up in their yard with a video camera. The secretary pointed me in the direction of the lady that runs the museum. One thing lead to another and now I’m up to my eyebrows volunteering time for them, at least 150 hours a month, doing their video and photography needs, building video presentations, digitizing old documents and now showing them how to market themselves. You name it, I do it. I just finished their first newsletter in a year. This is all to gain proficiency with the software, do better video and photo work and display my wares for the decision makers in the city and county.

    Also, the business just started at the first of this year.

    • Edward Long
      April 1, 2013 @ 7:33 am

      Tim — With the business just starting at the first of this year, you’ve got some time to sort things out.
      ** Keep track of all your costs and mileage during the year. Good records will be important, no matter how this issue ends up.
      ** At the end of the year evaluate your situation with the help of an experienced and capable tax advisor.
      ** Hopefully your income will mean you’ll end up itemizing. You might then find that you are better off treating your costs as business expenses (rather than related to your volunteer work).
      As the year progresses, you’ll know better then what to do.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

      • Tim
        April 1, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

        I am an LLC and I think that may give me some advantage, checking with my CPA.

        • Tim
          April 4, 2013 @ 8:16 am

          Good Morning All!

          I found a few applications for an iPad so I now track mileage in three categories, volunteer, business and personal. Vehicle costs can then be split three ways.

          I also have one that accounts for time, all three categories again.

          And I have one that tracks expenses, even allowing me to capture images of receipts.

          I may never have any need for all this information but I feel it’s better to have and not need than come tax time, need it and not have it. With this much documented information all printed out, my CPA will be a happy camper and if the IRS ever wishes to audit me, they’ll be buried in spreadsheets of information, This is also is stored in the “cloud” so I don’t have to worry about losing it. I have not heard from my CPA but, she is buried with doing taxes this time of year. When I searched the IRS for LLC publications, I found a big void of any information.

          • Edward Long
            April 4, 2013 @ 11:11 am

            Tim – Thanks for your message.
            I’m sure many visitors would benefit from any suggestions you have about iPad apps for mileage, costs and time. Feel free to share.
            Ed (aka Serious)

          • Tim
            April 4, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

            Track My Mileage, Hours Tracker and Proof of Expense.

          • Edward Long
            April 4, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

            Tim – Thanks!
            Other volunteers — any experience with these apps? Or with others? Share your learning.
            — Ed (aka Serious)

  56. Derek
    April 1, 2013 @ 4:54 am

    I volunteer my time and expenses for historic groups which are 503 c approved. I incur boarding expenses for my horse, mileage and cost for uniforms. Given I use my horse for 50% pleasure and 50% for the historic events can I assume I may track my expenses such as boarding and write off 50% of that and all the miles and uniform expenses?- Derek

    • Edward Long
      April 4, 2013 @ 7:10 am

      Derek – Take a look at the above comment discussion with Blkhank that started on March 16 — looks like a similar situation.
      Your challenge will be part (c) of the basic test = “incurred only because of the services you gave . . . .”
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

  57. Dale
    April 1, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

    I belong to a group that provides a service that is a 501 c (3) org. I am also the secretary. Our org culls deer for private and government property owners and does not charge for the service. I know I can deduct mileage but can I deduct the equipment I exclusively use to manage and cull deer? Our meat is donated to hunters for the hungry.

    The item in question are bows, arrows, broad heads and etc. (tools we use to perform the service). It is directly related to the service we provide and I do not use the items for personal reasons other than for the org.

    Dale

    • Edward Long
      April 4, 2013 @ 11:21 am

      Dale — Assuming that donations to the organization are deductible as charitable contributions (check its status at CharityCheck101.org), sounds to me like you have legitimate charitable deductions for those equipment costs. Happy volunteering! — Ed (aka Serious)

  58. Trudy
    April 3, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

    My husband and I are volunteer committee chairperson and secretary, respectively, for our son’s boy scout troop. I know the Boy Scouts of America is a qualified charity at the local council level(i.e. the Sacramento area.) Can we deduct our 22 miles to/from troop meetings whenever we conduct committee business (which is nearly every week) even if this is at the troop level, not the council level?

    • Edward Long
      April 4, 2013 @ 11:32 am

      Trudy — Sounds like a winner to me.
      I suggest you check your local council to see if they have information for you (you likely can deduct costs beyond mileage).
      Make sure your troop is a recognized part of the organization.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

  59. Paula
    April 7, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

    My husband is a volunteer coach for a swim team. My daughter is also on the team, but he is not her coach. When we travel, can we deduct the travel costs – mileage, hotel and his food that is incurred because he is the coach (he spends a minimum of 5 hours per day and does not do anything else for recreation or personal)?

    • Edward Long
      April 8, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

      Paula — A few thoughts for you and your husband,
      ** First, make sure the organization is one to which donations are deductible as charitable contributions. See FAQ #2 above.
      ** Assuming the deductibility checks out, the mileage to and from team events at which he coaches should be deductible.
      ** As to hotel and food — he’ll face some challenges. See IRS Publication 526 on page 5 under “Travel” and the related examples. The part-time nature of his duties, and the fact that your daughter is also competing, and perhaps you also traveling with them, doesn’t fit very well with the examples.
      I hope you find this helpful. Happy volunteering! — Ed (aka Serious)

      • Paula
        April 8, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

        Thanks for your reply. The swim team is a YMCA organization. Besides coaching, he often is a chaperone and is responsible for transporting the swimmers back and forth from the meet to the hotel or restaurants. When he is not acting as a coach at different meets, he volunteers at the swim meet as a referee or other official duties.

        • Edward Long
          April 10, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

          Paula – Take a hard look at IRS Publication 526 under “Travel” — the Publication makes important distinctions based on the level of involvement. It’s quite possible some entire trips could be deductible, while other trips would only be deductible as to mileage.
          Hoping this helps, Ed (aka Serious)

  60. Mark
    April 8, 2013 @ 7:13 pm

    I am a volunteer Boy Scout leader. We traveled from Colorado to Florida for SeaBase Boy Scout camp. I used flight points for my travel. Can I deduct the fair market value of that ticket for that portion of my travel?

    • Edward Long
      April 10, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

      Mark — A couple of thoughts for you,
      ** If you paid for (as in purchased with cash) the miles, I think you should be able to deduct the amount you paid.
      ** If you didn’t pay for them (other than the pain of traveling), I don’t think you’re headed toward charitable deduction success. Unpaid-for miles are a lot like personal services you donate — no deduction there (see FAQ #1 above).
      Happy volunteering! — Ed (aka Serious)

  61. Wayne
    April 9, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

    I am a professional photographer. I provide house photography services for a major ballet company as a public service….they are a 501c3 entity and are eligible.

    My questions are these:

    The photography sessions = not deductible correct?
    The post processing hours = not deductible correct?

    But I bought a new camera this year to specifically use when shooting for the ballet, is that deductible (beyond being a business expense that I know i can already deduct)?
    I know I can deduct travel miles to and from the ballet, so that is not a question I need answered.

    I deliver numerous images to the ballet for them to use in advertising and promotion for instance: 1 image = 9.00 X 75 images = 675.00
    Since that is an actual product that I am giving them, that is actually a deductible expense correct?

    Thank you for your assistance

    • Edward Long
      April 10, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

      Wayne –
      ** Darn! 🙁 The only part of your questions where I’d comfortably say you could take a charitable contribution deduction is the part you didn’t need answered (miles).
      ** The new camera might have some potential — but it would need to have been purchased only for your volunteer services (see part (c) of the basic test).
      ** The sessions and processing hours = services. No charitable deduction.
      ** If you purchase the images (processing, for example) for the ballet company from an independent vendor, your out-of-pocket costs likely would qualify.
      ** Otherwise, the images also sound a lot like services.
      ** I’d suggest pursuing treatment of everything but the volunteer mileage as business expenses.
      I hope you find this helpful — Ed (aka Serious)

  62. guy hall
    April 9, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

    I am a volunteer officer for a qualified 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The work has become the equivalent of a full time job (unpaid, doing it to change the world). The miles are adding up to 10k miles in a year. I’m concerned that they become an audit risk (sounds like a pain). Is there any issue with the large number of miles? Is there such a thing as an unpaid employee? Our organisation has no paid staff.

    • Edward Long
      April 10, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

      guy – A few thoughts for you,
      ** At 14 cents per mile, you’d have a $1,400 charitable deduction for mileage. Will that be an issue / audit trigger? Based on what I’ve found on line, the big question is would your charitable deduction be large compared to your income (or “disproportionate”)? I’d suggest you do a Google search for “irs audit triggers 2013” — see what you find — then make a decision.
      ** Not sure what you are worried about regarding an “unpaid employee.” Your organization has no paid staff, and it doesn’t pay you anything. I don’t see a tax issue for you.
      ** Perhaps there are labor law issues or insurance issues to be concerned about regarding an “unpaid employee” or “intern.” Those likely would be issues for the organization to worry about, but those topics are far beyond what I’d even try to get into.
      I hope you find this helpful. Ed (aka Serious)

  63. Jill
    April 10, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

    My husband and I both volunteer for a qualified non-profit sports organization; I am on the Board and he coaches/referees (and our daughter plays). My question is, can we deduct the cost of coaching supplies (pinnies, corner flags, cones, etc.) – he does coach my daughter’s team? From what I have researched it sounds like referee uniforms would definitely be deductible.

    But then I came across the following:

    “The IRS does not allow taxpayers to deduct their volunteer expenses unless they exceed 2 percent of their adjusted gross income.”

    Does that mean uniforms, supplies, mileage, etc can only be deducted if it exceeds 2 percent of our adjusted gross income?
    Your help is greatly appreciated.
    Thanks.

    • Edward Long
      April 11, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

      Jill –
      ** Where did the quote on volunteer expenses come from? Doesn’t sound correct to me.
      ** There is an 2 percent of adjusted gross income threshold for what are called “miscellaneous expenses.” But I don’t think costs related to charity would normally be considered miscellaneous expenses.
      I hope this helps.
      Ed (aka Serious)

      • Jill
        April 11, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

        • Edward Long
          April 11, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

          Jill – That site indeed includes the language you referenced — and says that volunteers can’t deduct volunteer expenses unless they exceed 2% of AGI. That site is incorrect on this point.
          The only charitable-related item that I could find that is subject to the 2% of AGI threshold is appraisal costs for determining the value of a charitable contribution. See IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions.
          Thanks for pointing this out. You might want to let the other site know about its error.
          Happy volunteering. — Ed (aka Serious)

  64. Tim
    April 11, 2013 @ 3:34 am

    It appears the burden on those of us that are self employed, yet continue to volunteer, really is to show how these costs relate to our business.

    • Edward Long
      April 11, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

      Tim – That’s an excellent point.
      If the business is otherwise producing a profit, and the volunteer work connects to the business, the volunteer-related costs should fit quite well with business costs (and reduce taxable net income).
      Ed (aka Serious)

  65. Leora Wilkes
    April 11, 2013 @ 11:11 am

    I’m wondering why public libraries are not included in tax deductions where volunteering is used so widely. The Great River Library system has public libraries in a wide variety of towns and cities in Minnesota.

    • Edward Long
      April 11, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

      Leora — A few thoughts for you,
      ** Public libraries are often eligible to receive donations that are treatable as deductible charitable contribution.
      ** But public libraries that are part of governmental units (for example, part of a city or town) do not need to file to have the deductible treatment (filing is optional).
      ** The list of IRS-recognized nonprofits and charities published by the IRS and also found at CharityCheck101.org will only include a library if it has filed with the IRS and received a determination on its status.
      ** Check with your library — it should be able to tell you whether it qualifies to receive deductible charitable contributions.
      ** Remember, however, that you can’t take a charitable deduction for the value of volunteer services. See FAQ #1 above.
      I hope you find this helpful — Ed (aka Serious)

  66. Joe
    April 12, 2013 @ 8:01 am

    My wife works as a volunteer for a therapeutic riding program for children with cerebral palsy and other handicaps and is required to be certified in CPR every 2 years. Is the cost of the CPR program deductible?
    Thanks,
    Joe

    • Edward Long
      April 12, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

      Joe – Two thoughts for you,
      ** Make sure that the program is eligible to receive donations that are deductible (see FAQ #1 above).
      ** If the CPR training is required only because of her volunteer work, the cost should be deductible as a charitable contribution. See part (c) of the Basic test above.
      Volunteers are terrific!
      — Ed (aka Serious)

  67. Paul
    April 14, 2013 @ 8:50 am

    I am an officer for a 501(c)3 and a registered coach for my son’s team in the same organization. Can I claim the milage for miles driven to practice and games/tournaments? Does the fact that my son is on the team negate the charitable contribution?

    Anxiously hoping for some guidance.

    Thanks.

    • Edward Long
      April 14, 2013 @ 10:47 am

      Paul — A few thoughts for you,
      ** Double check the status of the organization as to deductibility of contributions. See FAQ #2 above.
      ** I’m assuming these are team sports (like soccer or baseball) with several players on the team (vs. coaching one participant — your son). If that’s the case, your son being on the team should not negate the contribution deduction.
      ** I found no direct authority on this. As always, check with your tax advisor.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

  68. Michael
    April 14, 2013 @ 10:05 am

    I sing for an LGBT chorus, which is a 501c3 non-profit. We pay $150/year in dues to support the budget of the organization. Some members have said that the $150 is tax deductible, since we are volunteers of the organization. What do you think?

    We have a paid director and accompanist, but the Board and singers are non-paid volunteers. The organization could not exist without the support of the dues. We do get to use music (though we are charged a refundable deposit) provided by the organization, but there is no substantial educational component to the activities. It’s like being a volunteer for a church choir, but we pay mandatory dues to support the budget.

    Thanks, for the help!
    Michael

    • Michael
      April 14, 2013 @ 10:19 am

      I should say that we don’t have educational activities geared toward the volunteer singers, like music/vocal lessons or workshops. We perform 2 main concerts each year, where we charge admission, and at a lot of community events for free or for a goodwill offering.

      Thanks – Michael

      • Edward Long
        April 14, 2013 @ 11:15 am

        Michael – A few thoughts for you,
        ** IRS Publication 526 (see page 4) says: Membership Fees or Dues. You may be able to deduct membership fees or dues you pay to a qualified organization. However, you can de­duct only the amount that is more than the value of the benefits you receive. You cannot deduct dues, fees, or assess­ments paid to country clubs and other social or­ganizations. They are not qualified organizations.
        ** Lower on the same page you’ll find a discussion of a Written Statement that the organization might be required to provide to dues-paying members. These rules are tricky, and the results depend on the precise details of the dues, benefits and other activities.
        ** I suggest you ask the organization to put in writing for you (and other members) the tax treatment of your dues payments. The organization can create the document now, and help itself and its members quite a bit.
        I hope you find this helpful. Happy volunteering! — Ed (aka Serious)

  69. Patricia
    April 14, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

    Is the mileage I drive my dependent teen to do volunteer work (she’s doing the work, I’m doing the driving with my car) a deductible expense?

    While she is doing the direct volunteer service I feel like I am also volunteering by being willing to do the hour’s driving and pay the expenses to allow her to do that service.

    • Edward Long
      April 14, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

      Patricia — Take a look at these two past discussions,
      ** Rob’s question on Feb 1, 2013
      ** Elaine’s question on Feb 24, 2013
      The unhappy conclusion was that there’s no charitable deduction.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

  70. Sean
    April 17, 2013 @ 7:11 am

    Planning for 2013’s taxes: I plan to help a 501(c)(3) that delivers meals to disadvantaged people’s doorsteps. These people live 30 miles away from me, and they happen to be on my way to work. (my job is an additional 5 miles)

    For everyday that I drive a meal to someone’s doorstep, even if I happen to go to work after said delivery, can I deduct the 30 miles to and from the person’s house which I delivered a meal?

    Thanks,
    Sean

    • Edward Long
      April 17, 2013 @ 9:29 am

      Sean — I don’t think a charitable mileage deduction will work in the circumstances you describe.

      When you look at the basic test above (you have to pass all 4 requirements),
      ** item “(c) incurred only because of the services you gave” looks like a problem — because these miles won’t only be for charity (they’re part of your work commute), and
      ** item “(d) not personal, living or family expenses” also looks like a problem — again because of the commuting to work aspect (commuting costs are normally considered personal).

      On the other hand, if the delivery of meals caused you to drive extra miles (beyond the most direct route for your commute), like causing you to detour — I think you’d be in good shape deducting the extra miles.
      I hope you find this helpful.
      Happy volunteering!
      Ed (aka Serious)

  71. Karol Patzer
    May 1, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

    Last Fall I flew to Malawi, Africa with 2 other women. Our mission was to take donations to a kindergarten that part of The Mango Advancement Project. Our entire trip was 15 days. The last 4 days we were on a pleasure/safari experience.

    What portion of the trip would be tax deductible? We stayed in a church rest house 2 nights, and the rest of the lodging was at a local “resort” – 15.00/night.

    Thanks

    • Edward Long
      May 1, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

      Karol –
      Before analyzing this further, please determine the identity of the organization you were volunteering for and research whether the organization is qualified to receive donations that are deductible for federal income tax purposes. See FAQ #2 above.
      CharityCheck101.org is a good place to start that research. And your research will be even faster if you use the organization’s EIN (employer identification number) to do an EIN Magic search.
      I hope you find this helpful.
      Ed (aka Serious)

  72. Kevin
    May 3, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

    Since retireing 2 years ago I do volunteer work as a camp host for several federal entaties (National Park Service, National Forest Service and the Corps of Engineers). The positions are considered full time in that I perform work for 6 hours during the day and am required to be on site every night(5 days per week). I am also required to provide my own hard sided RV (motor home, travel trailer or 5th wheel). The park provides a spot with some hook-ups. with From reading everything above I believe my transportation costs are covered as well as my expences (food and supplies) during my stay. I understand that vehicles are normally excluded but in this case a vehicle is required equipment to perform the task (in my case a ford truck and a 5th wheel). The truck and 5th wheel were purchased exclusively for the purpose of hosting but the truck has been ocasionally used for personal uses as well. We do also maintain a home and have a second vehicle we use while there.
    Thank you!

    • Edward Long
      May 11, 2013 @ 7:30 am

      Kevin – A few thoughts for you,
      *1* Your transportation costs for your truck and 5th wheel should indeed be covered (14 cents per mile or actual variable costs as outlined above). Be careful, actual variable costs are more limited than you’d normally expect.
      *2* Based on your description, you’ll have a harder time justifying food and supplies costs — at least based on a reading of the examples in the “Travel” section of IRS Publication 525 (see page 5). It’s a question of which example is closest to your situation.
      *3* Similarly, the costs of your vehicle and 5th wheel (other than described in #1) likely will be treated similar to #2 above.
      *4* I’ve searched online to see if the National Park Service, National Forest Service or the Corps of Engineers might have some helpful information on this. I found none.
      *5* Suggest you ask the three organizations directly if they have any information that could help.
      I wish I had more positive news for you.
      — Ed (aka Serious)

      • Kevin
        May 12, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

        Thanks Ed.

  73. JF
    May 8, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

    I perform volunteer work for a qualified non-profit that requires training. After the initial 56 hours of required training, ten hours of advanced training are required every year, but I have more hours of advanced training because I want to be able to better assist the non-profit’s clients in my volunteer capacity. The initial training and some of the advanced training is offered by the non-profit, but the non-profit accepts some training provided by independent third parties (I submit all training on a form to the non-profit). Also, I have to pay fees for much, but not all, of the training. Which of the following can I claim as tax deductible charitable expenses:
    1. My fees for initial training
    2. My fees for the required ten hours of advanced training per year
    3. My fees for the hours of advanced training that are more than the required ten hours per year
    4. My mileage to any tax deductible training

    Thank you,
    Judy

    • Edward Long
      May 11, 2013 @ 7:41 am

      Judy – A few thoughts for you,
      ** I think you should be able to deduct all 4 items, assuming you can meet item 1.(c) of the basic test described above: “incurred only because of the services you gave . . . .”
      ** The “only” is key.
      ** Items 1, 2 and 4 look pretty straightforward. Item 3 could also qualify.
      ** A problem arises, however, if you use the training or advanced training for another purpose (like private consulting or similar work).
      You didn’t mention how many dollars are involved. I’d be extra careful if the dollars add up to a significant percentage of your annual income.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

      • Judy
        May 12, 2013 @ 9:27 am

        All of my training in this area is being used for my volunteer work; so, that’s not an issue. The fees aren’t that significant although the mileage is starting to add up. Can you please give me some more information on Item 3 since you say that it “could also qualify”? Under what circumstances would it qualify or not qualify?

        Thank you,
        Judy

        • Edward Long
          May 15, 2013 @ 7:46 am

          Judy –
          Since #3 (advanced training that more than the required level of training) is only for your volunteer work — I think you’d be in good shape deducting those costs. Just be prepared for a possible argument if the IRS gets picky. The argument could be along the lines that the advanced training is an unnecessary or exaggerated expense, not done for the charity but for a personal need.
          Happy volunteering! — Ed (aka Serious)

  74. Tim
    May 12, 2013 @ 7:54 am

    I am starting to work for another, in-process scholarship foundation that will be applying for non-profit status.
    Of course, they are starting with no funds…if they retain me as an independent contractor, not as a volunteer, since
    their intent is to pay me once they get funds, would I be able to then write the time off as a charitable donation from
    my business?

    I cannot afford to be running a business if I continue to volunteer work….has to be some trade-off here…

    • Edward Long
      May 15, 2013 @ 7:37 am

      Tim – A couple of thoughts for you,
      ** Don’t forget FAQ #1 — you can not deduct as a charitable contribution the value of your time or services donated to a charity.
      ** Of course, if they retain you as an independent contractor (not as a volunteer) — you won’t be donating the services.
      If you continue working with the foundation, here’s hoping they succeed and end up paying you for your services.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

  75. Erica
    May 15, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

    I volunteer at a “for profit” sporting arena concession stand where a percentage of the proceeds of sales are “donated” to a local Catholic school. My children do not attend this school. I do not get a paycheck – the money goes directly to the school. Can I deduct mileage and parking expenses that are related to this volunteer time? Also, I have been unable to find either the school or the parish associated with the school on the “qualified organization” database. Is this because it is considered a “church”? Thanks for your reply.

    • Edward Long
      May 16, 2013 @ 9:12 am

      Erica – A few thoughts for you,
      *1* This is tricky. You volunteer for a “for profit” that gives a percentage of profits to what is likely a charity. Of course, there’s no deduction for volunteering at a for profit. Your challenge will be to show that your volunteering is in fact for the charity. Facts like “I only volunteer when the charity gets proceeds” or “the charity asked me to do this for their benefit” or similar approaches might help.
      *2* As to whether the school is a charity — you are correct: if it is part of a church it need not be on the IRS list for it to be eligible to receive deductible charitable contributions.
      ** I suggest you speak further with the charity about both matters.
      I hope you find this helpful. — Ed (aka Serious)

  76. Adam
    July 2, 2013 @ 6:57 am

    My wife is working for a Church owned Summer camp. While she’s down there I often make trips to visit. While I’m there, I’m typically doing some volunteer work. I setup and maintain the internet, advice counselors, and help with random administrative tasks.

    Would my mileage be deductible?

    Also, are any miles I drive to/from camp deductible, no matter where I’m leaving from? I often head down to camp from my work, which is about 30 miles farther than leaving from home.

    Thanks for the help!

    • Edward Long
      July 6, 2013 @ 8:29 am

      Adam —
      Given what you’ve described, I don’t think you’d be entitled to a charitable mileage deduction. You travel to the summer camp to visit your wife — and although you provide valuable volunteer services they are part of your visit. As such, you’d have difficulty with parts (c) and (d) of the basic test: ” . . . (c) incurred only because of the services you gave, and
      (d) not personal, living or family expenses.”
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  77. Mileage Deduction Bill Moves Through Congress at Snail’s Pace
    July 11, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

    […] deductions from volunteer-related expenses check out “What Can a Charity Volunteer Deduct?” on seriousgivers.org and a few tips from this CPA’s […]

  78. Mollie Balla
    July 17, 2013 @ 7:40 am

    We volunteer at a Federal Park…must have a least 20 hours per week on site. We live in our RV during our stay at the park. I think we could deduct mileage back and forth but is their any other expenses we can use?

    Thank you

    • Edward Long
      July 21, 2013 @ 9:46 am

      Mollie – A few thoughts for you,
      ** In addition to mileage at 14 cents per mile, you can deduct any tolls or parking costs.
      ** I’d guess that your actual variable costs will be greater than 14 cents per mile. Look at “You can use actual costs … .” above.
      ** Beyond that, do some brainstorming using the “Basic test” above. What other costs do you have that fit the test?
      I hope you find this helpful. Happy volunteering. — Ed (aka Serious)

  79. Cheryl H
    August 8, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

    I was recently elected to serve on the Board of Directors as an uncompensated volunteer for a 501(c)3 nonprofit which requires me to handle my responsibilities from my home. I am having to purchase a desk, filing cabinet, office supplies, etc. for a home office and would like to know if these items fall under the home office deduction. What portion of my utilities can I deduct, if any, since I am having to use my personal computer and printer to run reports from a database. In addition, I use my cellular phone for contacting other board members regarding organization business matters – what portion of this bill can I deduct?

    • Edward Long
      August 9, 2013 @ 7:54 am

      Cheryl – A few thoughts for you,
      ** Here’s a link to IRS info on the home office deduction: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Home-Office-Deduction
      ** It looks to me like the home office deduction is available for business use of part of your home. I don’t know that the IRS would treat volunteering for a charity as a business use.
      ** Under the basic test described in the article above for a charitable deduction, if the money you spend is solely for your services to the charity and is not personal — you can deduct (assuming the charity is a qualified organization).
      ** Given your list of expenses, office supplies and a portion of your cellular phone costs look deductible — both to the extent allocable to your volunteer work.
      ** I think you’ll have a hard time with the desk and file cabinet — given their long useful lives and ability to use for other than your volunteer assignment (remember the “solely” part of the basic test).
      ** I’m guessing that the utilities allocable to your volunteering would be so minimal as to not be worth the time to figure out.
      I hope you find this helpful.
      Happy volunteering, — Ed (aka Serious)

  80. Harlan White
    August 21, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    My wife is a librarian. She has found a fellow that is offering to cut the grass free except that he would like a “donation slip” valued at $30.00 each time he cuts it. Thirty dollars is what the library currently pays for the service. I have already told her this can’t be done (based solely on websites like this) but she would like it in writing…What do you say?

    • Edward Long
      August 25, 2013 @ 9:51 am

      Harlan –
      A few thoughts for you and your wife,
      ** I think the library could give the volunteer a document that said something like “Thank you for volunteering and cutting the grass today. By doing this, you’ve saved the library $30.00.” Signed and dated by the library.
      ** If the library suggested to this volunteer that he can deduct the $30 value of his services, the library probably should clear that up. Your wife could print out this article (without the comments section) and give it to the volunteer.
      ** If the library made no such suggestion, I don’t think the library has the duty to explain the tax law to the volunteer.
      ** On the other hand. The library probably has many volunteers. Perhaps the library could have a document that explains the tax advantages of volunteering. That document might be no more than this article (without the comments section).
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  81. Susana
    August 21, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

    I am a teacher and my daughter (15 years old) and I are planning to participate in a voluntary summer program abroad. The organization is a nonprofit 501 c 3. When we travel to our destination (Morocco) we would like to stop and visit my family in a different country. Can I still include the flight as part of our expenses? Is there a limitation about it?
    Thank you!!!

    • Edward Long
      August 25, 2013 @ 10:04 am

      Susana – A few thoughts for you,
      ** The IRS is pretty particular about travel expenses. If you look at Publication 526 on page 5 you’ll find this language (plus a few examples). Travel. Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses nec­essarily incurred while you are away from home performing services for a charitable organiza­tion only if there is no significant element of per­sonal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. This applies whether you pay the expen­ses directly or indirectly. * * * * The deduction for travel expenses will not be denied simply because you enjoy providing services to the charitable organization. Even if you enjoy the trip, you can take a charitable contribution deduction for your travel expenses if you are on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip. However, if you have only nominal duties, or if for significant parts of the trip you do not have any duties, you cannot deduct your travel expenses.
      ** You’ll have to look at your precise circumstances, and look at the examples the IRS provided.
      ** One thought you might pursue. Let’s say you break your trip down into three pieces: (1) Home to family, (2) family to volunteer program, (3) volunteer program to home. If you consider your volunteer trip to be pieces (2) and (3) only, I think you’ll be in a much better position to deduct. Be sure to check your tax advisor.
      Happy volunteering,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  82. Cindy
    September 4, 2013 @ 7:26 am

    This site has very good info. I am trying to find out information on charity donations. I bought several items as a donation for a mission trip at various times. They averaged anywhere from $5 to $75. I kept the receipts, do I need to have the church write a receipt out for everyone one of these donations?

    • Edward Long
      September 6, 2013 @ 5:54 am

      Cindy —
      ** Sounds like you bought items which you gave to your church as part of a church mission. You kept your receipts.
      ** It will be helpful in backing up (proving) your deduction if the church writes you a document that thanks you for donating the items, lists them, and shows the time period. The church does not have to show the values (your existing receipts do that).
      I hope you find this helpful.
      — Ed (aka Serious)

  83. Jim
    September 5, 2013 @ 11:29 pm

    I perform with a band at a dance. We raise money for our college scholarship at the dance. We performers are not paid anything. We come to town on Friday night to rehearse, and perform on Saturday.
    Can we deduct our motel, food and mileage expenses for this? We have to travel anywhere from 100 to 500 miles to get there.

    Thank you!

    • Edward Long
      September 6, 2013 @ 6:03 am

      Jim –
      There are basically two parts to the charitable deduction for volunteers.
      ** 1. The organization you volunteer for must be qualified to accept charitable donations. See FAQ #2 above.
      ** 2. The costs you incur must meet the four-part basic test. See “The basic test . . .” above.

      It’s not clear to me what you mean by “we raise money for our college scholarship at the dance.” Is the dance sponsored by a qualified organization, that uses the money for college scholarships? That would pass part 1. If the facts are otherwise, it gets more complicated.

      If you can pass part 1, part 2 should be fairly easy when you apply the basic test.
      I hope you find this helpful.
      Happy volunteering,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  84. Jim
    September 6, 2013 @ 9:39 am

    Thank you for your prompt response. We raise money for the college music scholarship fund by selling CDs and passing the hat. This is an annual event.
    The fund itself is qualified.

  85. John
    September 14, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

    This was very interesting. I serve on 3 501(C)(3) boards and also a City Council, no mention of that chore but I relish the opportunity.
    Thanks for the info.

    • Edward Long
      September 21, 2013 @ 7:40 am

      John –
      Most cities, as governmental units, are qualified organizations for volunteer deduction purposes.
      Assuming your service on the City Council is a volunteer position, you should be able to take charitable deductions for your related costs. Just follow the rules outlined at the beginning of this article.
      Happy volunteering, — Ed (aka Serious)

  86. Anne
    September 17, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

    A landscaping company asked if they could get a charitable deduction for donating paid employees and their heavy equipment to build and clear trails for the small non-profit I run. I understand they can not deduct the employee time if they volunteer. However, if the company is paying the skilled employee, and the bulldozer and bucketloader would normally be leased out for several hundred dollars, is a) the employee and/or b) the use of the equipment a charitable deduction? Thank you for helping us small non-profits with these tricky issues!

    • Edward Long
      September 21, 2013 @ 7:52 am

      Anne –
      A few thoughts for you.
      Yes, this is a bit tricky.
      I’d suggest the landscaping company first focus on business deductions (rather than charitable deductions).
      If the landscaping company is a for-profit business that is making a profit, perhaps they could deduct the costs of their work on the trails as a business expense (advertising / outreach).
      You could help them in that regard by publicly recognizing their efforts (maybe you could post one or more signs thanking them for their volunteered work, and/or recognize them on your website or in your newsletter).
      They of course should consult their own tax advisor (neither you nor I can give them tax advice).
      If the business expense route doesn’t work for them, come back and we’ll dig further.
      I hope this helps.
      — Ed (aka Serious)

  87. Jeff
    September 20, 2013 @ 9:25 am

    Are meals associated with Charity meetings deductible?

    I belong to a charity where we meet twice a month locally at a restaurant meeting room for the purpose of planning fund raising events and all of the related activity. Is the cost of the meal deductible? (Note: These are formal meetings with agendas, minutes taken, etc.)

    • Edward Long
      September 21, 2013 @ 8:00 am

      Jeff –
      I think you’ll have a hard time deducting your meal costs for these local meetings. Focusing on the 4-part basic test above, part (d) requires that the costs not be personal, living or family expenses. You purchase the meal for your personal consumption.
      Of course you can deduct your travel-related costs as outlined in the above article.
      Note, if the meetings weren’t local, the rules might allow deduction for meals.
      Happy volunteering,
      — Ed (aka Serious)

  88. Sue
    September 25, 2013 @ 7:50 am

    I organize and volunteer for many charity motorcycle rides. I do part of these through the American Legion Riders and some with other groups outside of the Legion

    Couple of questions here:

    When I take my car or motorcycle to the planning meetings, meeting with sponsors, delivering fliers etc that can all be tracked as mileage for taxes I am pretty sure from all I am reading

    But where it gets into a grey area for me is the actual rides. Most rides are 100 – 150 miles long with a start point and stops along the way for socializing etc then onto an end party. If I merely volunteer to work one of the stops to hand out things to the riders I can deduct that but what about if I participate in the ride event itself? I donate to the charity to be able to ride so I can take that off but can I deduct the actual mileage for the ride day itself?

    Thank you

  89. Sagar
    October 4, 2013 @ 12:54 am

    I am a chapter coordinator of large 501(c)3 and have to visit India every year to visit some of the projects we fund. The purpose of the visit is in official capacity only in the sense that in my additional role as a project steward, the project in India can continue to be funded by us in USA only if someone (can be a affiliated volunteer from US or India) visits it annually. Can I deduct expenses for my flight to India if the flight was mainly (85%) for this purpose (other 15% is to visit family there. I spend 25 days out of 30 day trip on project visits.

    • Edward Long
      October 9, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

      Sagar –
      ** To deduct your flight, you’ll have to deal with this concept: “Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses nec­essarily incurred while you are away from home performing services for a charitable organiza­tion only if there is no significant element of per­sonal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel.” (emphasis added) — See “Travel” in IRS Publication 526 at page 5 and the examples that follow.
      ** That doesn’t preclude deducting other direct volunteering costs while you are in India.
      ** Be sure to check with an experienced and capable tax advisor.
      Happy volunteering. — Ed (aka Serious)

  90. Stacy Groff
    November 14, 2013 @ 5:48 am

    Question- I belong to a 501c4. We are utilizing volunteers to teach training classes within our organization. We are exploring a few options to retain the instructors as gas is costly. As a 501c4, can we reimburse volunteer instructors for gas mileage to and from our facility at the IRS rate? I know the instructors cannot claim the mileage on taxes as we are not a c3. Thank you for any thoughts on this.

    • Edward Long
      November 17, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

      Hi Stacy –
      Your question is beyond the scope of this site and my expertise. I do, however, have a few thoughts/questions for you,
      ** I assume the organization has the legal authority to make mileage reimbursements, as a reasonable cost of conducting its business. Check the organization’s underlying documents and its tax advisor.
      ** Mileage reimbursements received by your volunteers will need to be considered by them in filing their own income tax returns. Are they taxable income? Are they required to be listed in the return?
      ** Are you looking at the charity rate (14 cents per mile) or the business rate (56.5 cents)?
      ** Keeping track of mileage will be a record-keeping job for your organization and for the volunteers. And particularly annoying if the 14 cents per mile is what’s being considered.
      ** I encourage you to find simpler ways to encourage/reward your volunteers. Can you provide lunches when the volunteers are together as a group? Provide tickets to organization events (for example, a volunteer recognition event) without charge?
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  91. Jason Ghan
    November 15, 2013 @ 11:52 am

    I have a motorhome that I’m providing to a charitable organization for use in their activities for 3-4 months. Can I deduct the payments I’m making on the motorhome or any other related expenses as a charitable contribution?

    Thanks,

    Jason

    • Edward Long
      November 17, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

      Hi Jason,
      A few thoughts for you,
      ** I’m assuming the motorhome is your personal asset (not part of a business).
      ** In general, I think you’re going to have a tough time with the normal ongoing costs of the motorhome. See part (c) of the basic test = “(c) incurred only because of the services you gave”
      ** If you have costs related to the use of the motorhome by the charity in addition to your normal ongoing costs, those might be deductible as costs of volunteering (example, if the motorhome is driven, mileage and similar costs).
      ** Have you looked into your ability to deduct the interest in general — if it is a residence for you?

      Let’s ask our other readers about this — any ideas for Jason?

      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  92. kATHY sTEVENS
    December 4, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

    I live in Mass. and flew to S.C.to volunteer at a children’s cancer camp. Is my flight and parking at the airport deductable?

    • Edward Long
      December 6, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

      Kathy – A few thoughts for you,
      ** Make sure the camp is part of an qualified organization (see FAQ #2 above).
      ** Look at the 4-part basic test above.
      ** Under that test, I’m assuming that your costs were (a) unreimbursed, and (b) directly connected with the services you gave. Those sound easy.
      ** Under the test, were the costs (c) incurred only because of the services you gave, and (d) not personal, living or family expenses? If they were, you’re on the right track toward claiming a deduction. But the answer will depend on your precise facts.
      ** You should check out the specific discussion of travel costs in IRS Publication 526, and the related examples. Publication 526 on page 5 says “Travel. Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses necessarily incurred while you are away from home performing services for a charitable organization only if there is no significant element of per­sonal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel.”
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  93. EH
    December 18, 2013 @ 5:21 am

    I am traveling from the US to the Philippines to volunteer with a non profit group (501c3) that specializes in disaster relief. Will my air flight and subsequent ferry connections be deductible if I fly to the country two days prior to my project start date? The project is located in an area of the country that requires additional limited ferry connections that can be unreliable. I wanted to allow a day or two grace period to account for any possible transportation hiccups in reaching the project site. Once I reach the project, i will be debriefed for a day, and will work 5 full days before flying back out to the US. Also are materials purchased for the work performed on the trip also deductible (ie goggles,boots, gloves,etc for disaster cleanup)?

    • Edward Long
      December 26, 2013 @ 8:07 am

      EH – A few thoughts for you,
      ** Ask the charity for information it may have prepared for volunteers on the deductability of costs.
      ** Apply the 4-step basic test shown above. Steps (c) and (d) are the most challenging. Step (c): incurred only because of the services you gave — can be challenging because sometimes costs serve more than one purpose. Step (d): not personal, living or family expenses — can be challenging because some costs are very much like personal and living costs.
      ** IRS Publication 526 has some pretty good examples and discussion in the travel area. See page 5. I think that discussion will support deducting a large portion of the costs you’ve described.
      Haopy volunteering,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  94. Amy Estes
    January 2, 2014 @ 9:56 am

    Thanks for a great post! I paid a bill for a qualified nonprofit on whose board I serve. The organization was cash-strapped and it was just more expedient for me to send the money directly rather than give it to the organization and risk them missing a deadline while the checks cleared. I believe that with the nonprofit’s acknowledgement letter detailing what I paid for them, I can deduct this payment as a charitable contribution to the organization. Is this correct? Thank you very much!

    Amy

    • Edward Long
      January 2, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

      Amy –
      Sounds right to me.
      ** I’m assuming this is a recent situation, so the acknowledgment is “contemporaneous” with the donation.
      ** Generally “contemporaneous” means that you receive the written acknowledgment no later than the date you file the return for the year the contribution was made.
      ** Make sure that the acknowledgment letter shows the amount you donated and when you donated it, and notes that you received nothing in exchange.
      Happy volunteering,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  95. lauries1
    January 4, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    I am a certified (not state licensed) volunteer lay counselor (unpaid) at my church with weekly counseling in group & one-on-one counseling setting. I am certified by a qualified training organization which requires me to take annual CLE classes and turn in records in order to maintain my certification. I have to attend & travel to conferences to acquire CLEs. Our church requires certification to be lay counselors in their counseling ministry. Per se, I am not attending convention as appointed representative of the church – like attending & voting at a SBC Convention, etc, just maintaining my certification for this volunteer program. How/where do I go about deducting these conference expenses.

    • lauries1
      January 9, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

      Just as training someone might take in order to acquire a new job/profession is not deductible – I would agree that the costs involved in my original training in order to obtain certification in biblical counseling might not be deductible. However, once I am in active participation in our church’s counseling ministry, the ongoing cost to maintain certification would be a deductible charitable contribution because it is for the church’s benefit and they require me to have certification in order to be a volunteer lay counselor in their ministry – there are no paid lay counselors in this ministry of church.

      Sort of like the costs to attend law school (or any training classes) and pass the bar exam in order to become a lawyer (instead of being a plumber) are not deductible, but once you pass the bar and are “practicing” law (for real or otherwise) your costs to acquire CLEs every year in order to maintain your law license are deductible. Maybe you are not really practicing law per se, maybe you offer pro-bono services to the poor so you just aren’t making income for those services but still claim the annual CLE & dues deductions. You still have to maintain the annual CLEs and pay your state bar membership fee or you lose your law license. Just as if I don’t take the CLEs ev year and pay my membership dues, I will lose my certification and will no longer be able to be a lay counselor for our church counseling ministry. If none of us maintained our certification there would be no church counseling ministry at all since it is the church’s stated requirement.

      By the way, I don’t believe it makes a difference as to whether the organization someone gets training from is for-profit or non-profit, it is who is benefiting from the training and if the training is required by the qualified non-profit organization for whom you are working as a volunteer. Me just receiving the “education” is not logical argument as a “benefit” that would disqualify deducting the costs. The education (counseling training) doesn’t “benefit” me unless I am making profit from it – if I am using the education in a volunteer counseling ministry, hopefully, others are benefiting from the education and the church can offer free counseling to its parishioners.

      In Pub 526, pg 5, just as if a deacon sent to and attending a convention as rep of church (for the benefit of the church) can deduct his/her unreimbursed expenses, I don’t see why our expenses shouldn’t be deductible as well since we are attending this conference as a “rep” of the counseling ministry for the purposes of obtaining CLEs in support of the church’s counseling ministry. The deacon is giving nothing “tangible” to the charity (church) other than his/her attendance at the convention and bringing back info to church leadership; likewise, we are giving the same nothing “tangible” to our charity (the same church who sent the deacon) other than our attendance at the conference and bringing back CLE records in order to maintain certification which is required by our charity/church counseling ministry. The church requires the certification so, therefore, my expenses to maintain it should be deductible.

      That being said – it would be different if you get certification originally for a non-profit organization (church, etc) and begin doing volunteer work, but later decide “hey I can earn money doing this” and then set up shop for yourself on the side receiving income for profit based on having this same “certification.” Maybe you also even continue doing the volunteer work as well. Once you start taking in income for performing the same work (services) you are performing at the same time for the charitable organization, then the costs of the ongoing CLE training should be applied against the profits you are making in your little side business because at that point you are receiving financial benefit for maintaining your certification regardless of why you originally obtained certification. As long as your certification is solely being used for the benefit of a qualified non-profit which requires you to have the certification in order to volunteer (especially because of the nature of counseling itself), then the cost of maintaining the certification is a deductible charitable expense. To me deductibility as charitable contribution is only logical conclusion. I don’t hear any other argument to the contrary out there.

      • Edward Long
        January 10, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

        lauries1 –
        A few thoughts for you,
        ** Looking at the 4-part basic test, (a) unreimbursed [easy to prove], and (b) directly connected with the services you gave [sounds correct for your circumstances, subject to the caution below], and (c) incurred only because of the services you gave [sounds correct, subject to the caution below], and (d) not personal, living or family expenses [sounds correct, subject to the caution below].
        ** It appears to me that costs should be deductible that are only to maintain the certification, when the certification is used only for the qualified organization and is required by the qualified organization. My caution for you relates to the concern that costs of travel can serve more than one purpose (as in attending a CLE program, and visiting the city and having a vacation) and that that costs of travel to obtain CLE could be beyond what most would consider reasonable (as in traveling first class across country to stay at the Four Seasons to attend a CLE class, especially when the needed CLE credits could be obtained by driving an hour and spending the day at a nearby class). The caution raises concerns that one might face if the deduction were audited by the IRS.
        ** I’d suggest you obtain the advice of an experienced and capable tax advisor on this, especially if the costs involve an amount of money that might be considered significant in the context of your overall income tax return.
        I hope you find this helpful,
        Ed (aka Serious)

        • lauries1
          January 10, 2014 @ 2:54 pm

          Travel was strictly to conference and staying at hotel where conference was being held. No sight-seeing, no family; other attendees traveled with me in my car and we shared hotel 2 per room. Travel miles calculated at ridiculous rate of .14/mi. Believe I should be covered. Have asked church for letter comfirming my attendance at conferences to acquire CLEs is for church benefit just for back up.

          • Edward Long
            January 14, 2014 @ 7:44 am

            lauries1 –
            Sounds very much like you are on the right track.
            Ed (aka Serious)

  96. Kelvin
    January 9, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

    I claim “musician” as one profession on my tax return. That involves me having a fair amount of PA equipment. Part of my “musician” income is gear rental. Over the course of the year I allow a church to use a basic PA weekly at no charge. I also allow a few youth organizations the same luxury. Does the IRS allow me to claim “fair market value” of the standard rental fee of this equipment to be as a deduction?

    • Edward Long
      January 10, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

      Kelvin –
      ** I think the answer to FAQ #1 applies to your circumstances. No charitable deduction.
      ** By the way, since the costs of owning and maintaining the equipment are part of your ongoing business, I assume you consider them business expenses.
      ** If you incur out of pocket costs to transport the equipment to the church or youth organizations, you might be looking at either a charitable or business deduction (business because making the equipment available is an outreach / business-building expense).
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  97. Roger
    January 14, 2014 @ 4:59 am

    I drive about 70 miles once a week to a state prison to sing in a choir of both inmates and volunteer visitors. It’s an official activity of the prison, but the prison itself is obviously a state institution, not a 501(c)3 organization. Can I deduct the mileage driving to this activity? Thanks for any response.

    • Edward Long
      January 14, 2014 @ 7:43 am

      Roger –
      Double check with the prison — just to make sure it’s not somehow part of a private entity. I understand that prisons in some states are operated by private companies.
      Assuming the prison is not part of a private entity, and because it’s part of a state institution, you should be able deduct your volunteer mileage.
      Government units are not required to be recognized by the IRS to be Qualified Organizations. See FAQ #2 above.
      Happy volunteering,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  98. Sharon
    January 20, 2014 @ 9:13 pm

    Hi. Thank you for a fantastic service!

    I have two volunteer projects I do for qualifying organizations. One is as an adult leader for mission trips, usually clean-up after disasters. I fly in from a different city from the rest of our group, and then we pay $250 or so to the organization for lodging while we work. Can I deduct the flight and my accommodation? I get off the plane, find the church we’re sleeping in, then work like a dog until I go home. No other visiting or whatever.

    Second trip is I am a regular speaker at a medical conference. I am a patient volunteer, and I run lectures and discussions mostly with teenagers. This is the only reason I go to the conference, and definitely the only reason I stay the whole time, because I’m busy teaching every day. They offer no compensation – we are also paying for food. Can I deduct my flight, hotel, and meals?

    Thank you. This would be very exciting if I can get any of this outlay back in deductions!

    • Edward Long
      January 22, 2014 @ 7:42 am

      Sharon –
      A few thoughts for you,
      ** IRS Publication 526 is a great resource on your questions.
      ** On page 5, right column, you’ll find two paragraphs that I think are quite supportive of deducting all of your costs in both volunteer efforts.

      Travel. Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses necessarily incurred while you are away from home performing services for a charitable organization only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. This applies whether you pay the expenses directly or indirectly. You are paying the expenses indirectly if you make a payment to the charitable organization and the organization pays for your travel expenses.

      The deduction for travel expenses will not be denied simply because you enjoy providing services to the charitable organization. Even if you enjoy the trip, you can take a charitable contribution deduction for your travel expenses if you are on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip. However, if you have only nominal duties, or if for significant parts of the trip you do not have any duties, you cannot deduct your travel expenses.

      ** The two paragraphs are followed by examples. Example 4 appears particularly helpful to you.
      Happy volunteering,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  99. Chuck
    January 23, 2014 @ 6:50 pm

    My wife takes our certified golden retriever therapy dog to a local hospital once a week for a 4 hour shift to visit patients. Is the milage to and from the hospital deductible?

    • Edward Long
      January 24, 2014 @ 10:08 am

      Chuck –
      Assuming that the hospital is a qualified organization (see FAQ #2 above), your wife should be able to deduct the mileage as a charitable contribution.
      Ed (aka Serious)

  100. Alan
    January 25, 2014 @ 4:26 am

    My wife and I make considerable annual donations to a large US charity that helps over 1 million children in poor countries. They have invited us to go visit some of these children and to see how the money we donated is spent. Are our travel expenses deductible? Can we travel business class? Do I need any particular documents from the charity for my records? Thanks

    • Edward Long
      January 25, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

      Alan –
      A few thoughts for you,
      ** It sounds like you are doing some very generous work.
      ** Based on your description of the situation, however, I think a charitable donation deduction for your travel costs is unlikely.
      ** It doesn’t sound like you are going as a volunteer, to perform volunteer services.
      ** Take a look at the 4-part basic test above. Parts (b) and (c) are tied to services you provide. Are you providing volunteer services?
      ** You might want to talk to the charity you are supporting to see if it has suggestions for you.
      ** Kind of a different thought that you might investigate. If you were working for a foundation (even your own) and the trip was to examine a charity supported by the foundation, the foundation might deduct the costs.
      As always, consult and experienced and capable tax advisor.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  101. john
    January 26, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

    I drive 15-20 times a year for the Disabled American Veterans transporting disabled veterans approximately 230 miles round trip to Milwaukee from Appleton WI . Typically my day starts at 6am and ends at 5pm.

    I do drive the DAV Van and put gas in it every trip which is paid for by the VA. I receive no compensation for my services . Would it be possible for me to claim .14 per mile to help offset all of the time I am putting into this charity ?

    Thank you ,

    JK

    • Edward Long
      January 26, 2014 @ 2:57 pm

      John – A few thoughts,
      ** If the VA pays for the gas, that’s not a cost for you — no deduction.
      ** You can deduct out-of-pocket costs that you pay (that aren’t reimbursed) as part of providing your services. Take a look at the 4-part basic test above.
      ** See also FAQ #1 above.
      Thank you for your service to veterans.
      – Ed (aka Serious)

  102. Manuela
    February 1, 2014 @ 10:00 am

    My husband and I are ordained and licensed pastors. We have a small home church Acts 2 church in our home. We are not a 501c3 nor a licened churc at this time and we do not collect offerings at this time. I do a great deal of volunteer work outside our home. Example hospital visits to a cross country truck driver who we had never meet from out of town. His wife also how we never meet lost home and everything as he lay in a coma in the hospital and she at his bed side. I would go to hospital to take the wife to shop for food and hyg. Needs and take her out for lunch. When Her husband passed away we then moved the wife into our home during her grieving period and until she could make it on her own. My questions are what all can we deduct? Miles, lunches, supplies for her, food for served at home church and those staying with us, any deductions with home due to in home church and safe haven for widows orphans and the poor at no cost to those we bring home.

    • Edward Long
      February 5, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

      Manuela – A few thoughts,
      ** You and your husband have been doing wonderful things.
      ** Unfortunately, because you are helping specific individuals, you are not entitled to a charitable deduction on your personal taxes.
      ** See FAQ #5 above (added to the page after you asked your question).
      ** I’d suggest you pursue further status as a church. When a church helps people in need, generally it can deduct its costs.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  103. Steph
    February 4, 2014 @ 9:58 am

    I participate in a charity sports endurance fundraising program for a 501(c)3 organization. I am an unpaid volunteer but technically am “compensated” for my fundraising efforts in the form of training for, and traveling to, running events. More specific details of my activities, expenses, and compensation include:
    I raised $1,600 for the 501(c)3 through various activities, some of which involved driving to fundraising events that I hosted.
    I attended a group training every Saturday for ~5 months. I would drive to the training site, run with a coach (who was contracted/compensated by the 501(c)3) and team (other fundraising participants) and then return home. I would not have driven to this location if I were not involved in this program (I actually wouldn’t have gone running on those days at all if I were not involved with the organization – my event occurred three months ago and I haven’t gone running since then). I’ve kept a record of these dates by saving e-mails to and from my coach.
    For my event, I traveled out of town and stayed one night in a hotel with one meal (paid for by the 501(c)3 with a portion of the $1,600 that I raised). I paid for my own transportation (gas and tolls, using my own vehicle).
    My specific questions are:
    1. Can I deduct the volunteer mileage rate for driving to/from my Saturday practices?
    2. Can I deduct the mileage to/from fundraising events that I hosted?
    3. Can I deduct the mileage to/from my running event?

    Thank you!

    • Edward Long
      February 5, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

      Steph – A few thoughts for you,
      ** I’m a bit confused about your fact situation. I suggest you consult directly with your own experienced and capable tax advisor.
      ** That said, I’ll take a crack at your questions based on what I understand.
      **** It sounds to me like you are a volunteer who helps the charity raise money through running events.
      **** It sounds like the charity paid for some of your costs, but not all.
      **** For each unreimbursed (unpaid) portion of your costs, apply parts (b), (c) and (d) of the basic test above. That should give you your answer.
      I hope you find this helpful.
      — Ed (aka Serious)

  104. Anna
    March 15, 2014 @ 4:25 pm

    I volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters once a week and my little sister lives 6 miles away so I plan to deduct at least 12 miles/week. However, should I also deduct the miles we then drive to go do activities, somewhere between 10-30 miles round trip each week?

    • Edward Long
      March 16, 2014 @ 9:51 am

      Anna –
      Absolutely! And don’t forget other out-of-pocket costs, like parking.
      If it passes the four-part basic test and you are volunteering for a qualified organization, you can deduct the cost as a charitable contribution.
      Happy volunteering,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  105. Gary
    March 20, 2014 @ 8:32 am

    Hi,
    My church sends teenagers out on mission trips to Pittsburgh to help with home repair projects with a local non-profit. I give them my mini-van for the week, they put gas in and pay tolls. They might even wash it before I get it back. A leader 21 years old or more drives it with 5 teens in the vehicle plus bags and tools, it usually sees about 1000 miles for the week it is gone. Is this milage deductible for me? How do I prove it? I assume my church would be the non-prof I would claim? If I go and drive vrs. someone else driving, is there a difference? Would I be then asking for the 14 cents per mile or 14 cents minus the gas cost that they put in? The kids earn the money to pay expenses- tolls and gas plus their food and lodging out there. I get nothing from the team for the use of my mini-van for that week.
    Thanks,
    Gary

    • Edward Long
      March 21, 2014 @ 10:59 am

      Gary,
      A few thoughts for you –
      ** Under the 4-part basic test (see top of the page) you get a charitable deduction for costs that are unreimbursed.
      ** If the kids put gas in, that’s a reimbursement.
      ** For 1,000 miles, your deduction would be $140 — if you use the 14 cents per mile. You’d need to subtract the amount the kids paid for gas.
      ** Your costs are likely greater than 14 cents per mile. See above at “You can use actual costs . . . .”
      ** How do you prove mileage and costs? The best way is to keep records that you update after every trip.
      I hope this helps,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  106. Lara Siffer
    March 23, 2014 @ 8:18 am

    I volunteer at church directing the children’s handbell choir. On Sunday mornings, during worship service, when we have a performance, can the mileage be counted if I’m directing the choir during worship service?

    • Edward Long
      March 24, 2014 @ 9:24 am

      Lara,
      A few thoughts for you,
      ** See the basic test above, especially parts (c) and (d).
      ** Was the Sunday morning service part of your personal church attendance? If not, you likely can deduct the miles. If it is, the miles aren’t “only because of the services you gave.”
      ** Do you travel during the week for practice? If the only purpose of the travel is practice for the church choir, look to deducting those miles.
      I hope you find this helpful.
      Ed (aka Serious)

  107. ruby
    March 31, 2014 @ 9:08 am

    Hi, I haven’t seen this questioned answered above. I paid progam fees to a volunteer grogram in Ghana for my daughter (she is claimed as my dependent). I wrote the check directly to the program. Can I claim this $3000 cost as a charitable contribution? I also paid for flights, etc (but am assuming those things cannot be claimed since I was not the one doing the volunteer work). From their website :……………………………………………………………………. Global Mamas is a tax exempt organization in the U.S. and as such is exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. The program fee paid to Global Mamas is tax deductible for U.S. taxpayers. Any funds raised by you from another organization or individual to cover the program fee is tax deductible by that organization or individual. If you paid for trip-related expenses out of your own pocket, you can take a tax deduction for your airfare, local transport costs, lodging, and food as long as you are performing services for a charitable organization……………………………………………………………………………..Any help greatly appreciated!

    • Edward Long
      March 31, 2014 @ 1:47 pm

      Ruby,
      A few thoughts for you,
      ** I did a search for Global Mamas in the CharityCheck101.org database. I found no organization using that name. Please provide the group’s EIN (employer identification number), it should look something like 12-3456789. With that info I can check further as to whether the group is qualified to receive donations that U.S. taxpayers can deduct as charitable contributions.
      ** Whether or not it is a qualified organization, I think you will have a problem deducting any of the costs you incurred because they were for your daughter. See FAQ #4 above. See also the Feb 1, 2013 discussion started by Rob above.
      Sorry for the news,
      Ed (aka Serious)

      • ruby
        March 31, 2014 @ 2:20 pm

        Ed,
        Thank you for the quick response! Here is the company info……
        Women in Progress aka Global Mamas
        ADDRESS P.O. Box 18323
        Minneapolis, MN 55418
        EIN 010697940
        I kind of expected not to be able to deduct the program fees but held out hope that since it was a direct payment in advance, that perhaps it could be seen as tax deductible. Thank you so much for taking the time to help me!

        • Edward Long
          March 31, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

          Ruby,
          Thanks for providing the EIN. This is an IRS recognized organization, and donations are deductible as charitable contributions.
          Here’s a link to its info at CharityCheck101.org.
          Ed (aka Serious)

  108. Ginger Maes
    April 12, 2014 @ 6:37 pm

    I don’t understand why you can not deduct time for charitable events. I coach for Special Olympics. I have to be there for events. I ask off from work so I can be there for these events.

    • Edward Long
      April 13, 2014 @ 4:41 am

      Ginger,
      You saw FAQ #1 above. It contains my attempt to make sense of this “no deduction” rule. But then, it’s tax law – it doesn’t have to make sense.
      Happy volunteering,
      Ed (aka Serious)

  109. Reid
    August 14, 2014 @ 9:50 am

    My wife volunteers at the local elementary school. She runs 3 daily remediation groups for children with dyslexia (each class lasts 1 hour). She has participated in training 2 times (4weeks the first year and 1 week the second year) and several seminars all related to specifically teaching dyslexic children. What would be tax deductible?

  110. Sue
    August 14, 2014 @ 11:21 am

    [Responding to Reid’s question] Whatever her actual expenses are plus the exact mileage to and from the locations where the volunteer work is done. Her time is not a deduction. Anything out of pocket for supplies plus mileage

    • Edward Long
      August 14, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

      Sue,
      Thanks for your quick reply to Reid’s question.

      Reid – for more background, see “The basic test . . .” and the Frequently Asked Questions at the top of this page.
      Ed

  111. Karen Fraser
    September 18, 2014 @ 10:02 am

    I volunteer for a playhouse theater as an usher or admin jobs (such as mail-out prep). In exchange I get to see the plays either when I usher or at another time, depending upon circumstances. I wonder is this a barter situation? should I declare the face value of the tickets for the shows I see in exchange for my volunteer work as income?

    • Edward Long
      September 19, 2014 @ 5:42 am

      Hi Karen,
      The answer is not crystal clear.
      IRS Publication 5137 covers fringe benefits, which the tickets would be.
      To make them not taxable income, the tickets must be “occasional or infrequent, not routine” items.
      It says in Section 4,

      Examples of Excludable De Minimis Fringe Benefits
      All of the following may be excludable if they are occasional or infrequent, not routine:
       Personal use of photocopier (no more than 15% of total use)
       Group meals, employee picnics
       Theater or sporting event tickets
       Occasional coffee, doughnuts, or soft drinks
       Flowers or fruit for special circumstances
       Local telephone calls
       Traditional birthday or holiday gifts (not cash) with a low FMV
       Commuting use of employer’s car if no more than once per month
       Employer-provided local transportation
       Personal use of cell phone provided by employer primarily for a business
      purpose

      I suggest you discuss this further with your tax advisor and the theater.
      Happy volunteering,
      Ed

  112. Gary D
    September 26, 2014 @ 3:58 am

    I have a company vehicle provided to me that I can use for personal use. I do volunteer coaching year round for 3 sports. I assume that I cannot deduct these miles as volunteer since I have no cost to bear.
    My company highly advocated performing volunteer work. Would these miles be concidered personal miles on my log sheet which i then get taxed on? Or could they be concidered business miles for which my company allows for volunteer work?

    • Edward Long
      September 27, 2014 @ 8:23 am

      Hi Gary,
      The first part is easy, you can’t deduct for volunteer miles if you have no out-of-pocket cost for providing those miles.

      The second part is trickier,
      ** Whether you can report these miles as business miles is first a question between you and your company.
      ** If you report these miles a business miles, you have not cost (so no deduction).
      ** If however you report these miles as volunteer (not business) miles, then you do get taxed. If you get taxed, you have a cost. You might then consider deducting the cost of the miles.
      Before deducting, please discuss this with your tax advisor.

      Happy volunteering,
      Ed

  113. Sue
    September 27, 2014 @ 9:13 am

    @Edward: What? Of COURSE volunteer miles can be deducted ALWAYS. What does “no out of pocket cost for providing those miles” mean? That makes no sense. There is out of pocket expense the second I start my car up and drive to a charity event or drive to do any work for a charity.

    • Edward Long
      September 27, 2014 @ 9:32 am

      Hi Sue,
      I’m guessing you are commenting on my response this morning to Gary’s Sep 26 question above.
      In that message, Gary explained that because he’s using a company car in his volunteering he has not cost to bear.
      My reply was based on Gary’s company car situation.
      Your personal car is, of course, a different situation.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  114. Deb
    October 6, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

    I am an employee of a viable non profit. Should I be getting the business or charity rate for mileage?

    • Edward Long
      October 9, 2014 @ 11:04 am

      Hi Deb,
      Your mileage as part of your employment should be treated a business miles, even though you work for a nonprofit.
      You might also have mileage as a volunteer (if you do things for the nonprofit that are not part of your job).
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  115. Bill
    November 5, 2014 @ 9:08 am

    I have a volunteer service of 2 bloodhound tracking dogs. I use them for call outs from law enforcement to track criminals and missing people. It is non paid. Just wanting to know if I can write off the food, and vet bills along with the cost of the puppies. I paid out of pocket along with the training and certifications to do this work. That is all they are used for. They live out doors and are not pets.

    • Edward Long
      November 9, 2014 @ 6:14 pm

      Hi Bill,
      You need to be prepared to show the IRS that your dogs are used only for service to public agency law enforcement (and not as personal pets).
      A letter from local law enforcement spelling out the work you do for them would likely help your case.
      I’m assuming that the dogs are only used for public agencies — you can only deduct costs related to volunteer service for a qualified organization (a qualified charity, or church, or public agency).
      Thank you for what you do for your community,
      Ed

  116. angie
    November 18, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

    Hi,
    A non-profit in Australia is organizing a trip early next year to do clean up on a Barrier Reef island that was devastated in Cyclone Tito earlier this year. Since the organization is based in Australia, I’m thinking the costs of joining that trip wouldn’t be deductible…but I’m seeing bits and pieces about helping after a natural disaster can be (ie Philippines typhoon)…so now I’m wondering if maybe it would be, since it is do to cleanup work after a natural disaster. Thoughts? Thanks!

    • Edward Long
      November 18, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

      Hi Angie,
      For you to take U.S. charitable deductions, the nonprofit has to be a qualified organization under U.S. law. Doesn’t mean the work has to be in the U.S. Some foreign-based nonprofits are qualified.
      You can search the organization’s status at CharityCheck101.org — and see if it is qualified to accept tax-deductible donations.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  117. Liz
    December 1, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

    Hello, I volunteer doing mental health work at two nonprofit agencies. I have an iPhone that I use for client emergencies and so my supervisors can reach me wherever I am if they need me. Can I deduct the monthly cost of the iPhone?

    • Edward Long
      December 9, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

      Hi Liz,
      You need to apply all four parts of the basic test described above.
      The most challenging parts are likely to be “(c) incurred only because of the services you gave,” and
      “(d) not personal, living or family expenses.” If you use the phone only for the nonprofit volunteering (with no personal use) you’ll have a strong case. Otherwise, not looking good.
      Happy volunteering,
      Ed

  118. irma
    December 2, 2014 @ 9:08 am

    I have a pet therapy dog, what can I claim on my taxes….

    • Edward Long
      December 9, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

      Hi Irma,
      You need to figure out what your out-of-pocket costs are for your pet therapy dog. Those are the types of costs that might be deductible.
      And you need to apply all four parts of the basic test described above.
      The most challenging parts are likely to be “(c) incurred only because of the services you gave,” and
      “(d) not personal, living or family expenses.”
      And, of course, you need to be volunteering for a qualified organization (also see above).
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  119. Ellen Lerman
    December 21, 2014 @ 8:45 am

    I own a LLC that makes hand-sewn items. I am attending a convention run by an educational organization that has 501c3 status. Can I deduct the fees for attending, including workshop fees that produce a sample project, (but not one that can be used or sold)? Are the fees for hotel room and meals deductible for the span of the convention?

    Can a convention attendee deduct any of the expenses if he/she is not a business owner or employee in the needlework field?

    Thank you.

    • Edward Long
      December 31, 2014 @ 10:48 am

      Ellen,
      A couple of topics within your questions.
      1. This page talks about volunteers and deducting costs of volunteering. It does not appear that what you’ve described is volunteering. Or volunteering for the educational organization.
      2. If your conference attendance is part of your work to foster your business, you might want to look at deducting the related costs as business expenses.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  120. Betty Robinson
    December 31, 2014 @ 9:38 am

    Recently our organization hired a part-time custodian to find out later she is currently receiving SSI Disability Benefits. Wages from position will impact Disability Benefits. Several members of the board want to avoid impacting worker and suggested we classify worker as a volunteer and pay weekly wages from petty cash account. Personally I think this is illegal. Please Help! Thank you.

    • Edward Long
      December 31, 2014 @ 10:55 am

      Betty,
      What’s been proposed (“we’ll call the person a volunteer and disguise the payment to them”) doesn’t pass your smell test. It doesn’t pass mine either.
      I can’t advise you or the custodian on SSDI matters. I do believe that persons receiving SSDI are subject to the substantial gainful activity earning limits. And might also qualify for a trial period. Take a look at this page from the Social Security Administration: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/cola/sga.html
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  121. sara luongo
    January 2, 2015 @ 8:09 am

    Hello,

    We are doing a fundraising campaign for a non-profit and have spent about $200 of our own money on supplies (printing/ cost of reserving a donation table at local craft/ vendor shows, making a tshirt). Can we use moneuy collected from donations to reimburse ourselves or do we just keep track and deduct on our taxes?. Also, since we are just fundraising for the non-profit and not working for them, if someone gives us a cash donation do we give them a receipt? Checks are made out to the organization and credit cards are processed online thru the organization so the donors get receipts for that. thank you.

    • Edward Long
      March 4, 2015 @ 8:06 am

      Hi Sara,
      A few thoughts,
      ** You should discuss directly with the nonprofit how to proceed on collecting donations and using them to reimburse costs.
      ** Make sure you are dealing with a nonprofit that qualifies to receive donations that are deductible as charitable contributions. See item #2 under First questions above.
      ** I’d also discuss with the nonprofit the method of handling cash donations. It seems to me that the receipt for the donation should go to the donor directly from the nonprofit (if I were the donor, that’s what I’d want).
      ** If it is a nonprofit that qualifies regarding charitable contributions, your out-of-pocket costs of volunteering should be deductible — assuming they meet the 4 part test above.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  122. Peter
    January 22, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

    I volunteer my time with the local Sheriff’s office as a reserve deputy. The sheriff’s office provides the training and uniforms but I need to supply all my personal equipment such as guns, flashlights, handcuffs, baton, boots, gloves, utility belt, etc.. I also need to supply my own transportation to and from any security details or to the local sub station to catch a ride with a patrol deputy and any meals while volunteering. We also have to qualify with our weapons which the Sheriff’s office only supplies the ammunition for the qualifying shooting course but we have to pay for our own ammunition to practice the qualifying course and all the ammunition for our back up weapons for the practice and qualifying course. We do not get paid anything for this service or time. Can I deduct these expenses on my Federal taxes and where on the form do I put these deductions?

    • Edward Long
      March 4, 2015 @ 8:20 am

      Hi Peter,
      A few thoughts for you,
      ** The Sheriff’s office should qualify as an organization qualified to receive deductible contributions — double check with the office.
      ** Sounds like your unreimbursed costs of volunteering should be deductible — double check by reviewing all 4 parts of “The basic test . . .” above.
      ** As to where you deduct the costs, see my February 11, 2015 answer to Tiffany above. It’s basically Line 16 of Schedule A.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  123. Dana
    January 27, 2015 @ 10:24 am

    We put on roughly 3700 miles in a 4 month season to volunteer for a non-profit; Webfooters. The mileage should be tax deductible, correct? We volunteer (both my husband & I) as boat drivers / sound crew as well as 2 of my children are performers.

    • Edward Long
      March 4, 2015 @ 8:14 am

      Hi Dana,
      Can’t tell whether you can deduct the mileage, based on the information you’ve provided.
      Please review the 4 part basic test at the top of this article — with special attention to parts (c) and (d).
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  124. Breal
    January 29, 2015 @ 11:14 am

    Friend has a son in high school band (charitable org). She volunteers on the Band Boosters. The band is so large that they have to take a 18-wheeler to haul most of the large instruments and a separate truck and trialer to haul band uniforms to games and performances. She is over the uniforms and works at the games getting trailers unloaded, kids into uniforms, moving equipment onto and off of the field, etc. She drives her own vehicle to and from these functions to be able to do these duties. The question is that if she has the dates, locations, and mileage used on her personal vehicle for these functions, can she deduct the miles as charitable volunteer mileage?

    • Edward Long
      March 4, 2015 @ 8:12 am

      Hi Breal,
      If the charity is one that qualifies to receive donations that are deductible as charitable contributions, your friend’s mileage as part of her volunteer duties should be deductible.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  125. Janet
    January 30, 2015 @ 8:46 am

    Hi Ed. I am a K9 Handler/member of a tax-qualified Search & Rescue organization that trains every weekend and deploys many times a month for active searches. My out-of-pocket non-reimbursed expenses for training, gear, etc., come to many thousands of dollars a year. Those are expenses that I know are tax-deductible. My question pertains to the acquisition of a used, low-mileage vehicle that I would drive solely to training and searches. My personal vehicle has upward of 160K miles. My plan would be to keep my personal vehicle for local and personal driving only, and getting another vehicle (used, low miles) for use ONLY for work with SAR (training and responding to searches). Would the purchase price of this vehicle be tax deductible?

    • Edward Long
      March 4, 2015 @ 8:10 am

      Hi Janet,
      As to whether you can deduct the purchase price of the used vehicle, see “You can use actual costs . . .” above.
      Please note that those are the variable costs — but not fixed costs. The purchase price of the car would be a fixed cost.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  126. Lesley
    February 11, 2015 @ 5:44 pm

    HI ED,

    I was full time student living away from home in 2014. My mother will be claiming me as her dependent on her 2015 taxes. My question is can I file my taxes as her dependent and claim charity church deduction over $1000 dollars. Thanks in advance for answering my question.

    • Edward Long
      February 16, 2015 @ 10:26 am

      Hi Lesley,
      A couple of thoughts for you,
      ** Dependents can (and sometimes must) file their own income tax returns.
      ** Dependents can choose to itemize deductions when the file (a charitable / church donation would be an itemized deduction).
      Check with an experienced and capable tax advisor.
      Ed

  127. Susan
    February 14, 2015 @ 7:20 am

    Training or Licensing Expenses for Volunteer Work

    I volunteer for a 501( c ) 3 organization that is helping people enroll in the health insurance Marketplace. To do that, I had to become a Navigator, and incurred out-of-pocket expenses for online training and certification fees. According to IRS Pub 526, reimbursement does not appear to be ruled out by the 4 parts of the basic test. I wasn’t sure, tho, if it is deductible since the training also now qualifies me to be hired by organizations that pay people to serve as Navigators. I am not paid and do not intend to apply to organizations that would pay me. Can I deduct the fees I paid for a criminal background check, a Navigator Application fee, required pre-certification training, and the examination fee — $170.42 in total? Without paying those fees, I would not have been able to volunteer as a Navigator.

    Thanks for your help!

    • Edward Long
      February 16, 2015 @ 10:36 am

      Hi Susan,
      You’ve seen the 4-part basic test at the top of this page.
      ** You note that some volunteers were reimbursed for these costs. But I assume that you were not.
      ** The harder question appears to be whether the costs were “incurred only because of the services you gave” — or whether they give you other benefits (like being employable).
      If you are only going to serve the one organization that you already volunteered for, and have no intent to turn this into a paid position — I’d say you’re on pretty solid ground deducting the costs as a charitable contribution.
      My two cents — check with an experience and capable tax advisor.
      Ed

      • Susan
        February 16, 2015 @ 10:58 am

        Thanks Ed. The local United Way limited their reimbursement to a small number of people, so the rest of us are glad to hear your interpretation!

  128. Susan
    February 14, 2015 @ 7:37 am

    Perhaps I should also have mentioned that the local United Way reimbursed many of us for the expenses of becoming a Navigator; however, the funds that they set aside to do this have been exhausted. Thanks again!

  129. Susan
    February 15, 2015 @ 9:08 am

    The links from the “Mileage Deduction Bill…” and the “IRS Contributions You Cannot Deduct” posts don’t deal with educational and licensing fees. I would feel confident that the fees I listed in my 2/14/15 post are deductible, since they were necessary to perform the volunteer work, but I know that the tax code does not allow a deduction for job-related educational expenses that qualify you for a new trade or business. It does allow a deduction for those expenses that are necessary to keep a job. So, do you think they qualify as a charitable deduction if they’re necessary to volunteer for a 501( c )3 charitable organization for which you are volunteering? Many thanks!

  130. Donna
    February 16, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

    Hi. My husband and I run a 501(c)3 organization and wanted to give a monetary gift to our volunteers, just as a thank you for helping us. Would they have to pay taxes on that money?
    Thanks!

    • Edward Long
      March 7, 2015 @ 11:35 am

      Hi Donna,
      The amounts of the gifts may matter. And how your organization accounts may also enter into it.
      Take a look at the question Karen Fraser asked on September 18, 2014, and my related answer. The de minimis rules discussed there may be a help in your situation.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  131. Katherine
    February 27, 2015 @ 10:00 am

    My son is working on his Eagle project for Boy Scouts. We were also helping with the project (getting mulch, spreading mulch) so I know that I can deduct the mileage. The question is, do we list Boy Scouts as the donor group or the local monastery where the work was being done? Both are qualified charitable groups. Also, can I deduct the cost of lunch and snacks to feed the volunteers who helped him?

    • Edward Long
      February 28, 2015 @ 6:31 am

      Hi Katherine,
      A couple of thought,
      ** You can’t deduct costs of your son’s volunteering — see FAQ #4 above.
      ** You can deduct costs of your own volunteering. Sounds like you volunteered mainly for the monastery. Your out of pocket costs (providing lunch and snacks) for your volunteering should qualify.
      I hope you find this helpful.
      Ed

  132. Mary Petersen
    March 3, 2015 @ 7:57 am

    My employer puts on a benefit every year and we are required to work at it with no pay. This is about a 14 hr. day. Is there anything that I can claim on my taxes for charitable contributions?

    • Edward Long
      March 4, 2015 @ 8:25 am

      Hi Mary,
      A few thoughts for you,
      ** Whose event are you working on?
      ** If the event is your employer’s, is your employer a charitable organization that qualifies to receive deductible charitable contributions? If the event is another organization’s, is it qualified?
      ** If the event is your employer’s, sounds like you aren’t actually a volunteer but that it’s a required part of your job duties.
      ** You can never claim a charitable contribution for the value of your services.
      ** You might look at claiming out of pocket costs if you’re volunteering for a qualified charitable organization as a contribution / or perhaps better, look at claiming out of pocket costs as employment related.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  133. Charles Kilpatrick
    March 3, 2015 @ 4:09 pm

    Hi. I live on the west coast but a prestigious private university on the east coast invited me to teach two courses at the university. I jumped at the opportunity. I am an adjunct lecturer but receive no salary or other compensation and they recognize my contribution as that of a volunteer. It is qualified non-profit. I am there for only one academic year. The courses are full, for credit, degree courses listed in the course catalog. Most people who do a similar thing are local, but I had to rent a furnished house for the school year, as it is too far to commute across country and between three days a week of teaching, office hours, grading papers, preparing lesson plans, faculty meetings, etc., I have to be on campus every day. I still have my home and mortgage on the west coast and will return home as soon as the school year and my stint at volunteering to teach ends. The work is full time (and then some) and other than the occasional weekend day off (rare), there has been really no personal or vacation time associated with the time spent on the east coast. I have no family or friends in the area, and no other reason to be there other than for the volunteer work for the university. I am wondering if the rent expense is deductible.

    • Edward Long
      March 7, 2015 @ 1:33 pm

      Hi Charles,
      You raise an intriguing question. The answer, I think, is found by sorting through the rules that on the one hand allow for deducting expenses required to perform volunteer services and on the other hand say you can’t deduct personal, living or family expenses. Certainly rent would normally be considered a personal expense.
      The rules that allow for deducting expenses, however, allow for deducting meals in appropriate circumstances. And those are also personal expenses.
      I’m a bit concerned that your lecturer role produces a personal benefit (enhancing your paid work as an educator), that weakens the “volunteer” nature of your assignment.
      On balance, I think you’ll likely have a difficult time succeeding with deducting the rent — if the IRS were to challenge it.
      You should work with an experienced and capable tax advisor and sort this through.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  134. Merissa
    March 6, 2015 @ 1:04 pm

    I am sending my children to dance classes at a Non Profit Private Foundation based performing Arts Center. Are these classes tax-deductible by chance?

    • Edward Long
      March 7, 2015 @ 11:49 am

      Hi Merissa,
      To the extent the payments you make exceed the value of the classes, and if the organization is qualified to accept donations that qualify as charitable contributions.
      We’re dealing with the quid pro quo rules here. Under those rules, you subtract the value of benefits you receive from the amount you paid. If for example the registration fee was $100, and you received lunch and other benefits valued at $40, your charitable deduction for the registration would be $60. This is true, even if the paperwork described the registration fee as a “donation.” For more about the quid pro quo rules, see “Contributions From Which You Benefit” in IRS Publication 526.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  135. John
    March 7, 2015 @ 4:29 am

    I am a museum docent required to provide lectures to the public. I have converted my garage into a classroom/office where I prepare my lectures via powerpoint. I receive no compensation for my docent lectures but receive compensation for other teaching related to art. The garage is used exclusively for teaching activities. Would a home office deduction be appropriate for the converted garage?

  136. Sue
    March 15, 2015 @ 8:21 pm

    I started to volunteer for my son’s youth sports organization. This is a non-paid volunteer job; however in exchange of my volunteer hours, Organization comped my son’s tuition this season.
    They issued me 1099-MISC for the amount that was comped. (It is listed on #7 non-employee compensation.) But as I enter this information, looks like this is considered as extra income. Am I right?
    I would like to claim mileage (I have a log book) and hotel bill as well as home office expense. Could I claim utility bill like internet fee, cell phone fee, electronics, etc….?
    Any advise you may have is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Edward Long
      March 25, 2015 @ 9:17 am

      Hi Sue,
      A few thoughts for you,
      ** Yes, you’re right — it is treated as income to you.
      ** I suggest you ask the sports organization how they suggest you deal with this. You won’t be the first person whose had to deal with the questions you raise.
      ** Check with your own knowledgeable and capable tax advisor. I’m thinking you probably shouldn’t try to treat the expenses as employment-related. The other choice is to look at them as volunteer-related, where the mileage will likely be appropriate but other costs will be problematic (see the basic test at the top of this article).
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  137. Cora
    March 18, 2015 @ 10:43 am

    Hi there! I’m a Board Officer, VP, of a qualifying 501(c)3 non profit. I also have a full time paying job which I work at their office 40+ hrs per week. Most all of my free time is dedicated to the non profit, let’s say 90% (I have no life :). Which means 90% of my personal cell phone and internet usage is used to benefit the charity organization. I also have a dedicated home office as the org doesn’t have a “space” to work. It looks like these dont’t qualify as business expenses but possibly out of pocket expenses? Any idea how to calculate the usage deduction?

    • Edward Long
      March 25, 2015 @ 9:21 am

      Hi Cora,
      A few thoughts for you,
      ** I’m thinking that the fact that you are an employee of the nonprofit very much weakens your ability to deduct volunteer-related costs.
      ** I think you should focus on looking at these costs as unreimbursed employee costs. And look at the safe-harbor for home office costs.
      ** Review with your own experienced and capable tax advisor.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

      • Cora
        March 25, 2015 @ 9:29 am

        i’m so sorry! i have a full time job outside of my volunteer efforts, i should have left that part out. the real job has nothing to do with animal welfare.

        • Edward Long
          April 16, 2015 @ 8:56 am

          Hi Cora,
          Yes, the fact that you don’t work for the nonprofit changes the picture quite a bit.
          It may not change the net result very much.
          In the basic test (see top of the page), items (c) and (d) will be challenges for you.
          “(c) incurred only because of the services you gave, and
          (d) not personal, living or family expenses.”
          You might be able to come up with a prorating approach that you could back up. But if your phone, for example, has a standard monthly charge (you don’t pay by the minute), I would fear tha having the phone would be considered a personal expense totally.
          If you pursue this, you should review with an experienced and capable tax advisor.
          I hope you find this helpful,
          Ed

  138. William
    March 21, 2015 @ 5:59 pm

    Hello. I volunteer as a coach for public school robotics teams. In 2013 I was paid a grant that the school reported on a 1099misc. I claimed this (on schedule C) and deducted my mileage on a schedule C, business expense. In 2014 I was paid a “stipend” from the school and it was reported on a W-2. Can I still deduct my volunteer mileage as the coach or have I crossed over and become an “employee”? Most of the volunteer mileage is to/from the school and competition events.
    Thank you for any input.

    • Edward Long
      March 25, 2015 @ 9:24 am

      Hi William,
      A couple of thoughts,
      ** Sounds to me like you are an employee.
      ** Pursue with your experienced and capable tax advisor the approach of treating your costs as unreimbursed employment related. It may get you more (the 2014 business mileage rate was 56 cents, volunteer rate as 14 cents).
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  139. Anne
    March 25, 2015 @ 10:17 am

    I am a volunteer board member for a 501c3 and go to about 18 meetings a year. I don’t own a car and rent a car specifically to attend the meeting. There is public transportation but one way travel is 2 hours by bus vs 30 min drive in a rental. Can I deduct the cost of the rental and gas?
    Thanks so much for your input.

    • Edward Long
      April 16, 2015 @ 9:03 am

      Hi Anne,
      Seems to me like you should be able to deduct the cost of the gas — if you owned the car you could do that as a variable cost of your transportation.
      ** The rental charge, however, could be more of a problem — see “You can use actual costs . . .” above. Much of the rental cost (if not all) would be like the costs of repair, maintenance, depreciation, etc. — and not deductible.
      ** On the other hand, if you took public transportation, those costs would be deductible (see “Don’t travel to the charity by car?” above).
      You should review your approach with an experienced and capable tax advisor.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  140. Andrew
    March 26, 2015 @ 9:46 pm

    Hi. I volunteer for my county government’s Department of Emergency Services (DES). Last year, I traveled to a Federal Emergency Management Agency training class in another state to improve my skills in volunteering for DES. However, every hotel in town was booked (there was a big convention going on in the city), so I drove my RV and stayed in a commercial campground for the three days of the class (unhooking the RV and driving between the campground and the training facility each day). Are my travel and lodging (campground fees) costs deductible? I have my fuel and toll receipts. What about meals when I was there? There was no tuition for the course, as I was considered a registered and qualified volunteer (I had to prove my qualifications to FEMA to get enrolled in the class).

    What about traveling in my regular car to training classes in my home county’s training facility? What if those classes charge tuition?

    • Edward Long
      December 30, 2015 @ 11:09 am

      Hi Andrew,
      Apply the Basic Test shown above to the circumstances. Also, see the discussion with Jonathan back in February 2013.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  141. Renee Farrar
    April 3, 2015 @ 7:39 am

    My daughter is a high profiled photographer and editor who has worked for well known publications. I have been approached by the public school in which I formerly taught by the photography and journalism teachers to ask if she could come speak to their classes. There are other teachers outside of the classes who also wish to hear her speak so she would be addressing as many as three to four hundred kids though the day. Both of these individuals do know my daughter. However, this would be volunteer on her part, paying her own way etc. Would she be able to deduct her travel expenses from New York to Colorado to do this since this would be her sole purpose for coming out here. Thank you

  142. Andy
    April 7, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

    I understand that I cannot deduct general repair and maintenance expenses for my vehicle, what about the cost of repairs for damage that occurred while providing volunteer services? I had to replace the engine on my pickup truck after it was damaged/destroyed by towing a trailer for our scout troop. Does this still fall under “general repair”.

  143. CNYCC
    April 20, 2015 @ 1:16 pm

    Does the ban on tax deductions for donations earmarked for an individual also apply to an individual animal? If I donate to an animal charity and earmark the money for Fluffy, who needs expensive surgery, is that tax deductible? What about if the money is earmarked for a specific situation of animals, such as “the cats that survived the fire at 123 Main St.”?

  144. Rick
    September 10, 2015 @ 1:44 pm

    I keep reading about qualified 501c3, and the need to check it on CharityCheck101.org. However, can you please confirm that a church does not have to file 501c3 to offer tax deductible donation options. Yes they have to operate as a legitimate church, but just because the have not filed for a 501c3 does not mean the donations are not tax deductible per IRS code, correct?

    My understanding is that for a church, the 501c3 status only says we have prechecked the organization out.

    • Edward Long
      September 27, 2015 @ 9:48 am

      Hi Rick,
      Churches are not required to file for an IRS determination to be 501(c)(3) organizations. A legitimate church is a 501(c)(3) charity and donations to it are deductible as charitable contributions.
      501(c)(3) status for a church does not mean that the IRS has “prechecked the organization out” however.
      I hope you find this helpful,
      Ed

  145. Joe
    September 23, 2015 @ 9:31 am

    At what point could or would a volunteer be considered staff, employee, clergy or some designation that would allow the 57.5 cent clergy write off for mileage? Our church appointed a couple as “Youth Group Leaders” which requires a number of specific date assignments for all events. They are not paid but are re-imbursed for food and material expenses. Not for mileage. Are they only allowed to take the 14cent deduction (or variable costs) or could they qualify for the 57.5 since they are ‘considered’ to be ‘staff’? I’d like to be able to give them accurate advice on this topic and if there is some simple and 100% honest/legal way to put them in a designated staff position (without pay or benefits until we get to that point) to allow the full deduction, is there a way to accomplish that. They put in a good 30 hours a week and drive a lot to get to events while maintaining regular jobs.

    • Joe
      December 12, 2015 @ 5:48 am

      I was hoping you could answer this question. Is it un-answerable?

      • Edward Long
        December 30, 2015 @ 11:01 am

        Hi Joe,
        The couple sounds like they’re very helpful to your church.
        It doesn’t, however, sound to me like they’re staff, or that their travel is part of employment with your organization — to get them a business mileage deduction.
        Note that volunteers are not limited to the 14 cents — they can use actual variable costs of using their car.
        Best I can do.
        Leaving this out there for others to comment.
        Hope you find this helpful,
        Ed

  146. Pat
    October 16, 2015 @ 9:13 am

    I am training to be National Garden Clubs (NGC) accredited flower show judge. As part of the requirements, I must enter designs in NGC flower shows. NGC is a 501(c) organization, and my activities relate to its educational purposes. Judges are not paid – this is volunteer work, but it requires training. Can I deduct the costs related to attending classes (tuition, lodging, etc) and the cost of the flowers and materials needed for floral designs that are used for teaching purposes in the training classes or entered in public flower shows?

    Thanks!

    • Edward Long
      November 15, 2015 @ 3:22 pm

      Hi Pat,
      Sounds like you can deduct the training and related costs.
      Only reservation on my part would be item (d) of the basic test (see above). Depending on the circumstances the costs of the floral designs might be argued to be personal (as in costs of a personal hobby).
      Hoping you find this helpful,
      Ed

  147. Cheryl H.
    October 18, 2015 @ 5:09 pm

    I volunteer for several charities 501(c)(3) and I’ve been told by two different charities to count my volunteer hours spent helping our community and church and report them so they can apply for grants and use this on annual reports to IRS. Same hour being counted by both organizations – isn’t that double-dipping? I don’t think both organizations should count the same hour of volunteer time and report it as theirs. Are there any laws being broken?

    • Edward Long
      November 15, 2015 @ 3:18 pm

      Hi Cheryl,
      Giving those charities the benefit of the doubt, just report to them the hours you spent volunteering for them.
      If, indeed, they are asking you to report hours that you didn’t spend for them — probably a time to find different charities to work with.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  148. Lauren
    December 11, 2015 @ 10:29 pm

    My husband and I volunteer for our religious organization in the city and use the local train to get there and back ($11.30 round trip for each of us..so $22.60 each time we go). My question is, how do we prove we used the train for volunteer work and not personal use? We always pay for the train tickets with our credit cards, and there’s a schedule online for when we go into the city to volunteer…but is that enough for the IRS to accept the deduction? We spend $140/month and I would love to get a deduction on my taxes for it! Just don’t want to get into any trouble.

    • Edward Long
      December 30, 2015 @ 10:54 am

      Hi Lauren,
      My suggestion is that you keep a record of your time when you go to the city. If 100% of your time is spent going to and from and being with the organization you volunteer for, you should be in good shape. If, however, you do other things while you’re in the city — you’ll have a hard time with both the “incurred only because of the services you gave” test and the “not personal, living or family expenses” test.
      Check with an experienced and capable tax advisor.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  149. Brendan
    January 18, 2016 @ 9:32 pm

    I was using a personal vehicle for doing charitable work and the vehicle was damaged as a result of driving directly related to the charitable cause. I was not reimbursed so can I deduct the repair cost?

    • Edward Long
      May 1, 2016 @ 7:01 am

      Hi Brendan,
      Not an easy question to anwser. Obtain advide from an experienced and capable tax advisor.
      I do have a few thoughts, however,
      ** Looking at your cost as an automobile cost won’t work — only variable auto costs are deductible (not the cost of the car itself or the cost of insurance). See top of this page.
      ** On the other hand, if you’d been driving for the charity and damaged another person’s car, and had to pay for that — you might be able to deduct it.
      ** A challenging aspect could be that this might be considered a personal expense (see part 1(d) of the basic test) — and not deductible because of that.
      ** Did your auto insurance reimburse part of the cost? If so, you’re only looking at the un-reimbursed portion of the cost.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

      • Brendan
        May 1, 2016 @ 9:43 pm

        Ed,

        No, none of the repair was reimbursed by insurance or anyone else. What happened is I am a volunteer with a mountain rescue team and we were directed to drive down a dirt road to a search starting point and on the way back I hit a rock. Had I not been on the search I would have not been driving on that road and not hit the rock.

        Brendan

        • Edward Long
          May 21, 2016 @ 11:24 am

          Brendan,
          I think you have a good situation to pursue, working with your tax advisor.
          Ed

  150. Carol
    January 19, 2016 @ 9:00 am

    I took classes in 2015 that are provided by and required to serve as a volunteer in a 501c3 organization. The cost of that training was $180. The organization provided speakers and educational materials. Can I count the training fee as a donation?

    • Edward Long
      May 1, 2016 @ 7:04 am

      Hi Carol,
      If the classes are solely for your work for the charity, I think you’re on a good footing in deducting the cost. The “solely” test would, however, cause you a challenge — if you receive benefit from the classes either personally or professionally that goes beyond the knowledge needed to help the charity.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  151. Wonton
    January 23, 2016 @ 5:10 pm

    We allow a church intern to stay in one of our bedrooms. Is the lost rent of that room a possible tax deduction? We’ve rented the room out before, but no not do it regularly as we have allowed church interns to stay the last couple years.

    • Edward Long
      May 1, 2016 @ 7:06 am

      Hi Wonton,
      I think lost (or unpaid) rent would be treated just like unpaid services. No charitable deduction. See FAQ #1 above.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  152. Dom
    January 28, 2016 @ 10:27 am

    I am a retired school counselor and when I was working I was a member of our county counselors’ association (w/501c3 status). One of our functions is to run a charity basketball tournament with all proceeds going to scholarships that our association gives each spring. I still attend these meetings as an ex officio member and volunteer to work at the basketball games. I receive no compensation for attending meetings or the games nor am I employed by anyone – I simply am an advisory member of the group. May I deduct the mileage to/from our monthly meetings as well as the basketball tournament games?

    • Edward Long
      May 1, 2016 @ 7:09 am

      Hi Dom,
      Based on what you’ve described, looks like you pass all parts of the basic test (see the top of this page) and should be entitled to deduct the mileage.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  153. Patrick
    February 2, 2016 @ 4:35 pm

    I am a volunteer coach with a youth track club, I was wondering if I can deduct the miles I travel to practice 3 days a week along with the miles I travel to Saturday track meets.

    • Edward Long
      May 1, 2016 @ 7:12 am

      Hi Patrick,
      You didn’t say whether the club is an IRC 501(c)(3) qualified organization. If it is, make sure you pass all four parts of the basic test (see top of this page).
      To find whether the club is a 501(c)(3), see FAQ #2 above.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  154. marilynn
    February 14, 2016 @ 1:31 pm

    I travel to stores many times to purchase items for kits (school and personal care) that I assemble and donate through my church to an organization that distributes these kits to those in need throughout the world. Is my mileage to and from these stores for the purchase of charitable items eligible for volunteer mileage?

    • Edward Long
      May 1, 2016 @ 7:16 am

      Hi Marilynn,
      Not clear from your question who you are actually volunteering for. To obtain the charitable mileage deduction you must be volunteering for an IRC 501(c)(3) qualified organization (see FAQ #2 above). So, are you volunteering for the organization that distributes the kits? Of for your church (churches qualify as IRC 501(c)(3) organizations).
      Also make sure that each part of the four part basic test applies to your situation (see top of this page).
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  155. Patti
    February 21, 2016 @ 10:41 am

    My husband and I volunteer for a qualified organization that does restoration work on a historic narrow gauge railroad.We stay in our RV in a trailer park for the duration of the work sessions which can run from two to six weeks of 8 to 10 hour days. Can we deduct the cost of staying in the rv park as it is our lodging.

  156. PJ
    February 22, 2016 @ 8:56 am

    I am a puppy raiser for 4 Paws for Ability.
    4 Paws for Ability is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to place quality service dogs with children with disabilities and veterans who have lost use of limbs or hearing; help with animal rescue, and educate the public regarding use of service dogs in public places.

    We are provided with food, leashes, collar, etc….for the dog.

    In the process of raising the puppy, I have incurred vet bills for this dog that are not reimbursed.

    Can I deduct these expenses?

    Thanks,

    PJ

    • Edward Long
      May 1, 2016 @ 7:18 am

      Hi PJ,
      Seems like you should be able to deduct the out-of-pocket vet bills.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  157. Todd Katz
    March 13, 2016 @ 4:30 pm

    Thank you for this valuable information and detailed responses. I didn’t find the following situation described, so here goes:

    My wife and I volunteer for a 501(c)(3) which involves working with foster children under assignment from a juvenile court. We see the children weekly and each visit, in addition to the miles drives (I know, deductible) involves spending small sums on the children. Buying them a meal or a small gift such as a baseball or an entertainment event such as a movie.

    Are these non-driving outlays on behalf of the children deductible? Thanks in advance.

    • Edward Long
      May 1, 2016 @ 7:21 am

      Hi Todd,
      Generous as the are, I don’t think these would qualify for charitable deductions. They’re like to be treated as gifts to specific individuals. See FAQ #5 above.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  158. Neil
    March 24, 2016 @ 7:46 pm

    My wife is a nurse who went on an overseas medical mission. The charity organization required her to bring certain items. For example, she had to buy mosquito netting to use for herself. Can I assume the netting is tax deductible? What about the mileage to and from the local store (here in the USA) to shop for and purchase the netting?

  159. Randy Rial
    March 27, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

    I serve in leadership as a volunteer in several capacities at my church. I am Director of a Singles Class. I co-facilitate a Christ-centered recovery group/class at church, as well as mentoring people from church that are referred to me that are struggling in addiction. My Singles class will also do volunteer/service projects as well. I didn’t know exactly what was allowed for volunteer mileage in my situations (obviously just going to attend worship service would not be allowed)

    Thanks!

    Randy Rial

  160. Rhonda Pinter
    April 9, 2016 @ 9:50 pm

    I paid for myself and 2 adults to go to Bolivia to serve in an orphanage that is a qualified charity with the IRS. Can I deduct the expenses for this trip (airfare, mileage to the airport, food en route, etc.)? If so, am I able to deduct it for all 3 of us since I paid this cost or just for myself?

  161. Robyn Albro
    April 14, 2016 @ 12:23 am

    My husband and I are part of a 501(c)3 organization that provides entertainment and education to different communities for a few weeks every summer. We also participate in benefit performances that fund the summer tour. My husband is the president of the board of the organization. Neither of us get paid at all. Sometimes we do get reimbursed for some travel expenses by the organization.

    Last year the group traveled to Alaska for the tour and rode up and back on the Alaska Ferry from Washington. My husband flew back early because he had to get back to his regular paid work. Can we deduct his Airline flight back from Alaska? Also if we drive back and forth to the summer tour this next year (I know I will have to come back and work for a bit and then go back on tour) can I take the actual oil/gas expenses for those trips or 14 cents mileage? It seems that I can because the only reason for driving to these areas is to take part in the workshops and performances.

    Can we deduct some expenses from traveling to the benefit performances? I know about mileage, but I am wondering if we can deduct ferry expenses?

    Thanks for your help.

  162. Josh
    July 30, 2016 @ 12:33 pm

    Great forum. Here is a question as I am trying to do things right.

    I won’t bore you with the program, but I am working with some charities where, based upon donated funds to the charity, I will receive a small amount in compensation from the donations received. IF I elected to NOT receive the compensation and have it go DIRECTLY to the charity, can they give me a gift-in-kind donation receipt. For example, if I were to receive 2% on $100,000 in donations, could I elect to forgo the $2,000 of compensation and have it paid directly to the charity and receive the gift-in-kind donation?

    And, if I had to do this, then I could, but my question is about my comp going directly to the 501(c)(3) with it being considered g-in-k. If that did not work, then obviously I am assuming that the $2,000 would/could be paid directly to me and then I would choose to donate it to the charity for the deduction?

    Thanks, love the site.

    Josh

    • Edward Long
      August 21, 2016 @ 3:34 pm

      Hi Josh,
      In the first scenario, you’d be donating services. There’s no charitable deduction for donating services. See FAQ #1.
      In the second scenario, the charity pays you. Then you turn around and donate the amount received — charitable donation deduction is OK (assuming it’s a qualified charity).
      Of course, in the second situation, you’ll have taxable income.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

  163. Ellie
    July 31, 2016 @ 8:20 am

    We have a similar question to Josh., Our 501(c)3 animal rescue offers spay/neuter as part of the adoption fee. For kittens too young to be altered before adoption, adopters are given a certificate that can be redeemed for a free spay/neuter at one of our low-cost clinics OR they can get the cat fixed at their regular veterinarian and redeem the certificate to us with proof of spay/neuter for a $50 redemption. The question is, if someone pays for the spay/neuter at their vet and chooses not to get the $50 redemption, are they eligible for a tax receipt for $50 as a donation?

  164. Katherine
    September 14, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

    I am currently unemployed and donating services to a non-profit organization to gain experience in my field (law). I may at some point go into business for myself. I have also received a few tips about open jobs at the nonprofit, so my volunteer work might help me get a job, either at the nonprofit or elsewhere. But right now I’m just a volunteer who is job hunting when not volunteering. I include the work on my resume, identifying it as a volunteer position. The nonprofit calls me a volunteer and not an intern, because I am not in school and am already licensed in my field (though I need more experience). Can I deduct the parking expenses I incur while volunteering at their offices?

    • Edward Long
      September 17, 2016 @ 7:43 pm

      Hi Katherine,
      Assuming it’s a qualified organization, sounds like volunteering work. Parking would be an appropriate out of pocket expense to deduct.
      Hoping this helps,
      Ed

      • Katherine
        September 20, 2016 @ 10:58 am

        Thank you for the advice!

  165. Janette Sotelo
    November 25, 2016 @ 11:13 am

    Im part of a newly formed roller derby league which recieved Non Profit 501c3 status earlier this year. Our members and board members pay $40 a month to be part of the team, that pays for the cost of our practice locations and game production cost and we host various charitable events with and for other local charitable organization, on top of fundraisers, events, and regular weekly practices. My 3 questions are in regard to the members and those of us who volunteer as board members that run the league.
    1) Can members and board members claim milage for attending practices, volunteer events, fundraisers, games, ect.
    2) Can members and board members claim monthly dues paid to be a part of the league.
    3) Can members and board members write off any supplies and other donations purchased for the league?

    • Edward Long
      November 26, 2016 @ 10:32 am

      Janette,
      A few thoughts for you,
      ** You need to differentiate between costs that are truly volunteer and those for which the person gets something. It seems to me that the $40 monthly payment a payment for which the person gets something (participation in the league).
      ** On your #1, charitable deductions for mileage are available for volunteer activities. Attending practices, except perhaps as a volunteer coach, doesn’t sound like a volunteer activity. Attending a fundraiser might.
      ** On your #2, I don’t think that deduction would be allowed (see first ** paragraph above).
      ** On your #3, the cost of supplies and other items purchased for the league without reimbursement should be deductible.
      Hoping you find this helpful,
      Ed

  166. Erick
    December 18, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

    Hi,

    I want to know if there is any benefits in donating a car-vehicle to a person-individual and not a qualified non-profit organization? Thanks.

  167. Lois
    March 10, 2017 @ 6:02 pm

    My husband & I are both volunteer missionaries with the North American Mission Board. May we deduct mileage to hospital & nursing home visits? We do Campers on Mission & Disaster Relief through the Southern Baptists. I know we can deduct mileage and restaurants, but can we deduct cost of food taken with or bought and prepared at destination?

  168. Brian
    March 12, 2017 @ 1:15 pm

    I am a non professional scuba diver and travel to areas that are covered by a not for profit org. that is listed with the IRS. While doing research and volunteer work for them while I dive can I write off my travel, air, hotel, dive boat costs, if I am doing research on every dive everyday that I am traveling. I usually travel 7 days and dive 6 of them doing research.

  169. Edward Long
    March 25, 2017 @ 3:14 pm

    Sorry, but for the time being we’re going to shut down new comments. Lots of great information at the top of the page and among the hundreds of questions asked and answered.
    Ed