Tax deductions for volunteer work

You can deduct your expenses related to volunteer work

I just filed my taxes yesterday, and I used Taxcut rather than one of the free tools I mentioned to get free state tax filing. I should have taken my own advice. It ended up costing me $30 to do my state forms and then they wanted another $20 to efile the state taxes. I don’t know, $50 is too much – don’t you think? The problem is that once you have already invested 3-4 hours entering in all the information, it makes it difficult to choose another option…

But anyway, I just wanted to mention as a friendly reminder, you can deduct the mileage you drive to for volunteer work. From what I read, volunteers can also deduct…

  • cost of tolls
  • parking fees
  • cab fares
  • bus fares

if they were related to the charitable service.

Options for deducting the expenses

The standard mileage rate is 14 cents a mile in 2008. If you choose you could also deduct the direct expenses by keeping track of gas used.

Recordkeeping for the IRS

A couple years ago I started a separate calendar on Google Calendar that I mark…

  • The date and time I volunteered
  • The location of the work
  • The total number of miles driven

Then each year when tax time rolls around, I just grab a calculator and flip through the calendar adding up the total miles driven for volunteer work. Using a spreadsheet or notebook would work as well, just make sure you have it documented for the tax man!!

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  1. We keep a small planner in each car. You know the ones that you bank or realtor hand out for free. Then mark the miles, and purpose (work, volunteering, rental property) right on the date.

    I believe you can also deduct expenses for volunteering, i.e. making meals ill church members, etc. At least that’s what I remember from last year’s filing. I haven’t ventured into this years yet :)

  2. Does it really count if you’re just writing it down yourself in the calendar? It seems like you would need something else to prove that you were actually volunteering. Anyone can write down mileage or that they volunteered on X date. Perhaps I’m just playing Devi’s advocate here but I wonder if IRS auditor would actually accept that.

    I know I’m able to deduct some work related driving but that’s backed up by the fact that I have to sign into meetings which is kept as a record that I was actually there.

    • @Amy
      you know, I will let you know if I get audited ;) But, from what I read a notebook documenting it counts, so you could make the same argument for that as well… So, my hope is that the tax man will be okay with it…

  3. Rene Schultz

    So you can deduct mileage for volunteer work. Can you also deduct things you buy for volunteer work. For instance, I volunteer at a wild life sanctuary and I buy food/treats for the various animals I am trying to socilaize and care for. I also buy things I need to handle them during a rescue. Can I deduct those costs? Thanks.

    • Heather

      Yes, you can deduct the things you buy that are %100 for volunteer work and not personal use. This includes clothing that is purchased specifically for that work and the cost of cleaning said clothing.

  4. Kara Beth Huddleston

    My husband and I teach homeschoolers in rural Georgia. He teaches writing and English skills. I teach singing to a large group which then performs throughout the state. We have spent over $5000 of my husband’s retirement salary this year alone in costumes, music, equipment, etc. We had a fiscal sponsor from Atlanta but our connecting person moved, and I hate to ask the church who was sponsoring us again because our sponsorship was based on that friendship. Any other suggestions on how to get tax deductions?

  5. Shila Brekke

    My husband and I (both retired) volunteer about 8 hours (each) a week for a habitat for Humanity. We know that we can dudect the milage but can we deduct the hours worked somehow?

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