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Volunteers Who Travel: What They Can Deduct

Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman CPAs is a member of CPAmerica International, an association of CPA and consulting firms that provides industry knowledge including insightful articles, to help member firms serve clients and other individuals and organizations.

man on bucket lineMany people spend part of their summer engaged in charitable activities – from building homes to refurbishing charitable facilities to cleaning up storm-damaged communities.

If any of your volunteers travel to perform charitable work for you or other groups, let them know that if they itemize their tax deductions, their out-of-pocket costs may be tax-deductible.

Here are five tips the IRS offers to people who travel while serving a charity:

  1. Volunteer work must be done for a qualified organization. Ask the charity about its tax-exempt status. You can also visit IRS.gov and use the Select Check tool to see whether the group is qualified.
  2. You may be able to deduct unreimbursed travel expenses you pay while serving as a volunteer. You cannot deduct the value of your time or services. Keep records of your expenditures, and retain all your receipts.
  3. The deduction qualifies only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation in the travel. That doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy the trip. But the IRS doesn’t want you to turn your vacation into a tax deduction just by volunteering a bit of your time to a local charity at your favorite destination.
  4. You can deduct your travel expenses if your work is real and substantial throughout the trip. You cannot deduct expenses if you have only nominal duties or don’t have any duties for significant parts of the trip.

Examples of deductible travel expenses include:

  • Air, rail and bus transportation
  • Car expenses (You can use 14 cents per mile, plus parking and tolls, in lieu of the actual cost of your car.)
  • Lodging costs
  • The cost of meals
  • Taxi fares or other transportation costs between the airport or station and your hotel

You may also be able to deduct the cost of any supplies you purchase for use in the charitable endeavor.


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Michal Hubert Mrozek |  Managing Director
Citibank, N.A.