Tax Insights

Your Guide to State, Local, Federal, Estate + International Taxation

Charitable Deductions for Volunteers

The value of a volunteer’s time, blood, sweat and tears are not tax deductible; but, their out-of-pocket expenses are deductible if certain documentation requirements are met.

Maintain adequate records.  Retain cash register receipts and invoices to prove the amount of the expenses.  Retain corroborating evidence, such as photographs, calendars, meeting notes and automobile mileage logs. 

The most common out-of-pocket expense claimed is car expense.  Generally, your mileage records are considered reliable if they are created at or near the time of the expense.  The deduction for the use of your car or truck may be based on the actual costs that are directly related to the charitable use, or you may use a rate of $.14 per mile.

If your charitable services involve travel that takes you away from home, you may deduct your out-of-pocket lodging and incidental living expenses and 100% of the cost of your meals, as long as there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in such travel.

Obtain a written acknowledgment.  By the due date of your tax return or, if earlier, by the date you file your tax return, you must obtain a written acknowledgment from the organization.  The acknowledgement must contain these elements:
a. A description of the services you provided.
b. A statement of whether or not the organization provided you with any goods or services (other than an intangible religious benefit) in exchange for your expenses; and if so, a good faith estimate of the value of those goods and services.   

For an expense of less than $250, a acknowledgment described above is not required, but strongly recommended.  If you do not obtain a written acknowledgment from an organization for which the expenses are less than $250, keep bank and credit card statements as proof of payment.

By Stephen R Kimball, CPA