Thursday, November 5, 2015


If you volunteer your services to a church or charity, while the value of your time, however important, is not deductible, you can deduct out-of-pocket expenses incurred while performing your volunteer service, as well as travel and transportation expenses related to your service.

To be deductible the expenses must be -

·   unreimbursed,
·   directly connected with the services you are providing,
·   incurred only because of the services you gave, and
·   not personal, living, or family expenses.

Here are some examples of deductible volunteer expenses –

The cost and cleaning of uniforms that are not suitable for everyday use and that you must wear while performing donated services for a charitable organization, such as the uniform of a Scout Master.   

The ingredients of baked goods - cookies, cakes, etc, - made for a fund-raising event.

The cost of hosting a party or fundraiser for the organization.

Postage and copying charges for sending mailings to members or potential members, or to contributors or potential contributors.

The cost of travel, including reasonable amounts for meals and lodging, if you are selected to attend a regional or national conference or convention as the official representative of the organization.   

If you use your car for local travel in the course of performing your volunteer duties the easiest way to claim a deduction is to use the standard mileage rate of 14 cents a mile.  Unlike the standard mileage rates for business, medical, and moving, which are set by the IRS each year, this amount is set by Congress and has not changed since 1998.   You can instead elect to deduct the actual cost of gas and oil directly related to volunteer travel. 

Charitable travel includes –

Round-trip travel to attend committee and Board meetings.

Transporting sports-team and youth club members to games and events, or organization members and clients, such as the disabled or the elderly, to appointments.

Delivering food and other services to shut-ins.

Shopping for food or other items for a soup kitchen or for organization members and clients, such as the disabled or the elderly.

Visiting businesses to solicit or pick up donations.

You must have adequate records to prove the amount of the expenses.  Ask the organization(s) where you volunteer to provide you with an acknowledgment that contains a description of the services you provided and a statement that the organization did not give you any goods and services or other reimbursement for the expenses incurred.  

If you use your car to perform volunteer services your records must show the name of the organization, the date each time you used your car for a charitable purpose, and the miles you drove.  A mileage log, similar to one used for business driving, should be kept. 

Do you volunteer for a church or charity?  Are you on the Board or an employee of a church or charity?  Or are you a tax professional with church and/or charity clients? 

I have developed two versions of a VOLUNTEER TAX GUIDE – a short one that just covers volunteer expenses (from which the above was taken) and a longer one that includes all types of cash and non-cash contributions – and a CONTRIBUTOR TAX GUIDE that covers all kind of contributions that a qualified tax-exempt non-profit organization, including a church, can print and give to its volunteers, members, and contributors.

The reprint rights to theses guides are offered free of charge to qualifying churches and charities.  All I ask is that they send me a request for the guides on official organization letterhead.  They should send the request to –


All others can also acquire reprint rights for a fee.  Send inquiries to with VOLUNTEER AND CONTRIBUTOR TAX GUIDES in the “subject line”.


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