People who perform volunteer work for a tax-qualified charitable organization can claim a tax deduction for direct out-of-pocket automobile operating expenses they incur while working on behalf of that organization. But the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t allow them to deduct general auto maintenance expenses such as insurance, depreciation, repairs or registration fees. Nor can they deduct the value of the time they spent driving as a volunteer worker.
The IRS as of the 2011 tax year allows you to deduct the greater of 14 cents per mile or the actual auto operating expenses, such as the cost of fuel, paid out-of-pocket while doing volunteer work for the charity. You also can deduct the costs of tolls and parking fees regardless of whether you use mileage or actual auto operating costs to figure your car expense deduction for charitable volunteer work. The mileage deduction is subject to change by Congress.
To be deductible, the mileage or actual operating cost must be unreimbursed, directly connected to the volunteer work, and be an expense the taxpayer would not have incurred if he had not performed the volunteer work. The volunteer work must be for a charitable, religious, educational or other organization that qualifies for tax-deductible charitable donations under IRS rules.
The IRS requires that charitable volunteer workers who deduct their travel expenses must keep a written record of the mileage driven or actual auto operating expenses while performing their volunteer work. The record must show the name of the organization they were serving, the dates they used a car for charitable work, and the mileage or actual operating expenses related to the volunteer work.
You can claim your car expenses only if you itemize deductions. Add up the auto mileage driven while volunteering for a charity and multiply by 14 cents. Or multiply the cost of the fuel used while performing volunteer charitable work times the cost per gallon. For example, if you drove 350 miles while volunteering for a charity, multiply 350 by 0.14 to get a deductible expense of $49. Or if you burned 14 gallons of gas at $3.75 per gallon doing charitable volunteer work, multiply 14 by 3.75 to get a $52.50 deduction. Add your auto expenses to your other charitable donations on lines 16 through 19 of Schedule A.
Herb Kirchhoff has more than three decades of hands-on experience as an avid garden hobbyist and home handyman. Since retiring from the news business in 2008, Kirchhoff takes care of a 12-acre rural Michigan lakefront property and applies his experience to his vegetable and flower gardens and home repair and renovation projects.