Volunteer Tax Deductions and Your Return

Volunteering is its own reward, but paying less in taxes is the icing on the cake. Just as charitable donations are tax-deductible, so too are expenses you accrue while volunteering. These can include everything from out of pocket expenses to gas mileage.

When it comes to giving of your time and resources, there are many different ways you can go about deducting volunteer expenses. While it can be a little tricky, we’ll help guide you through every deduction you’re entitled to.

What counts as volunteer work?

Volunteer work comes in many forms. Anything from helping out at an afterschool program, to driving around senior citizens, to picking up litter on the side of the road—any work for a qualifying organization for which you don’t get paid all counts as volunteer work. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before you start claiming volunteer deductions.

Qualifying Organizations

The first thing you need to do is make sure you’re volunteering with a qualifying organization.

While volunteering in any shape or form is a great way to give back to your community, only work done through certain organizations qualify for volunteer deductions.

These organizations are typically classified as 501(c) and can include churches, non-profits, social and fraternal orders, veteran’s clubs, and many others. If you’re unsure whether or not the organization has tax-exempt status, simply ask the organization its status or search the extensive database at irs.gov.

Deduct Volunteer Expenses

Once you’ve established you’re working with a qualifying organization, there are many different volunteer deductions you can take for your work.

Volunteer Mileage Deductions

Certain transportation and travel expenses can be deducted from your taxes.

Deductible transportation expenses include gas or mileage (you can use a standard rate of 14 cents/mile instead of actual expenses), parking fees, tolls, and public transit fare.

In addition, travel expenses including air, train, or bus fare, hotel accommodations, and meals may be deductible if you are on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip.

It’s important to note that only expenses you accrue while volunteering or traveling to and from can be deducted. In other words, you must be able to prove your travel was not for personal enjoyment or vacation.

Out of Pocket Deductions

If you need to personally purchase anything to conduct your volunteer work, you can deduct it on your tax return.

Out of pocket expenses can include supplies or equipment, postage, photo copies, cell phone minutes, and much more.

Additionally, if the organization requires a special outfit or uniform, and it has no general utility, it’s possible to deduct this as well.

However, the expenses you deduct must be directly related to your volunteer work. For example, bringing in a box of crayons you have at home to an afterschool program won’t cut it. However, buying new crayons at the store may qualify.

Whatever you plan to deduct, make sure you keep a receipt or record of the expense. If your contribution is $250 or more you should also retain a written acknowledgment from the qualifying organization. You’ll need them later.

How Do I Deduct Volunteer Expenses?

It’s easy! When you file your return, you’ll need to include an itemized deduction. To do this, simply use form 1040 Schedule A to itemize your deduction and you’re all set!

The experts at H&R Block can look at your personal situation and help you decide if deducting your volunteer expenses is right for you. And if you’d rather file your taxes yourself, know you are still backed by our 100% accuracy and maximum refund guarantees. In an office or online, don’t just get your taxes done. Get your taxes won with H&R Block.

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