Is Volunteer Work Tax Deductible?

Man and Woman volunteering and earning tax deduction

Are you like many Americans who dedicate time to giving back to the community? Have you traveled to disaster areas to help rebuild, or spent time in a third-world country teaching English? No matter what your activity was, there are certain items related to your volunteerism that you can write off on your tax return.

Does my volunteer work qualify for a tax deduction?

There are essentially two criteria that you must meet in order to deduct volunteer activities on your tax returns: 1) You volunteered with a registered organization and 2) you were not paid.

Registered organizations include churches, nonprofits, fraternal orders, and veteran’s clubs. They are classified as 501(c) organizations and, upon request, can usually tell you their status. If for some reason they can’t, you can look them up in the database.

You must not receive payment from the organization for your services. Payment, by definition, disqualifies your assistance from being categorized as volunteer work.

What expenses can I claim as volunteering tax deductions?

Costs associated with mileage, public transit fees, gas, parking, and tolls can all be deducted as long as receipts for these expenses are kept. Even the cost of air travel, hotels, and meals can be deducted if volunteer responsibilities are conducted throughout the duration of the trip.

It’s important to stick to the expenses that you incur specifically while performing volunteer duties. In other words, you can’t go to Costa Rica for a week, spend a single morning volunteering at an orphanage, and try to deduct your travel expenses. You may have to prove that the costs you want to deduct were not for leisure.

You can deduct any out-of-pocket expenses that are required to complete the volunteer work. Things like supplies and equipment fall into this group. So if you volunteered in a Costa Rican orphanage and you bought art supplies for the kids to use and enjoy, you can deduct that expense.

Where do I list my volunteer-related deductions on my tax return?

You’ll want to fill out IRS Form 1040 Schedule A with all of your volunteer-related expenses. If your expenses are over $250, keep documentation of those expenses from the registered organization. When you file your tax return, request a letter confirming your in-kind donation; the organization will know what that means.

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