Have you pitched in at any food drives or trash pickups over the past year? Volunteer work is always valuable but does it have any tax-deductible value on your federal taxes?
While the short answer is no, this doesn’t necessarily mean some costs associated with volunteer work can’t be deducted. More on that shortly.
As the IRS explains, these are not tax deductible:
- “The value of a volunteer’s time or services”
- The value of using a volunteer’s space or equipment
Volunteer costs that are eligible tax deductions include:
- Unreimbursed expenses related to travel (lodging and meal costs for overnight trips), including the actual cost of gas/oil spent or a rate of $0.14 per mile. Additionally, parking and toll costs can be deducted.
- Unreimbursed expenses for buying and/or cleaning volunteer clothing or uniforms.
There are many stipulations to deducing these costs, however.
For costs of travel, the IRS says you can’t deduct expenses for vehicle repair/maintenance, depreciation, registration fees, insurance or tires — even if these costs are due to volunteer work. It’s also noted that the IRS isn’t likely to allow deductions for travel “unless there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation in such travel.” Translation: first-class airfare and a stay at a 5-star hotel may not qualify.
As far as volunteer clothing goes, the IRS particularly states that volunteer items that can also be used for non-volunteer use may not be eligible for deduction.
It’s also important to know whether the organization you’re volunteering for qualifies as a charitable organization according to IRS’ definitions. Types of qualified organizations, sometimes called “50% limit organizations,” include churches, publicly supported charities, and certain educational organizations.
The IRS says organizations will typically be able to tell you if they’re a 50% limit organization.
For full details, you can visit the IRS’ Charities and Their Volunteers explainer.