Is Volunteer Work Tax Deductible?

February 02, 2018 : Mike Slack

Is volunteer work tax deductible? In short, there are certainly tax benefits to take advantage of as a volunteer. In fact, any volunteer of a §501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization is entitled to receive deductible charitable contributions. Although no tax deduction is allowed for the value of the services performed for this type of organization, some deductions are permitted for out-of-pocket costs incurred while volunteering.

Deductible volunteer out-of-pocket costs include items such as:

  • Away-from-home travel expenses while performing services for a charity (out-of-pocket round-trip travel cost, taxi fares and other costs of transportation between the airport or station and hotel, plus lodging and meals). However, these expenses aren’t deductible if there’s a significant element of personal pleasure associated with the travel, or if the services for a charity involve lobbying activities.
  • The cost of entertaining others on behalf of a charity, such as wining and dining a potential large contributor — but the cost of the volunteer’s own entertainment or meal is not deductible.
  • If the volunteer uses their own car while performing services for a charitable organization they may deduct their actual unreimbursed expenses directly attributable to the services, such as gas and oil costs. Alternatively, they may deduct a flat $0.14 per mile for charitable use of their car.
  • Volunteers can deduct the cost of a uniform worn when doing volunteer work for a charity, as long as the uniform has no general utility (e.g., a volunteer ambulance worker’s jumpsuit).

Get documentation:

To claim this deduction, volunteers often need to get documentation from the charity itself. Any charitable deduction of $250 or more needs to have official documentation from the charity you are giving goods or services to. Generally, the document should contain the following:

  • Written documentation from the charity about the nature of volunteering activity and the need for related expenses to be paid.
  • Detailed listing of the out-of-pocket expenses incurred, and preferably copy of all receipts.

Donating your time to §501(c)(3) charities is a great way to give back and at the same time offset the costs incurred while performing the services.

For more tips on this topic, read “How to Get Tax Breaks for Volunteer Work“.

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Mike Slack

Mike Slack

The Tax Institute, H&R Block

Mike Slack, JD, EA, is a senior tax research analyst at The Tax Institute. Mike leads research teams focused on business and investment tax issues.

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