Volunteers donate their talents and time to religious groups, charities, schools and government agencies that educate and serve needy people. Your service may involve traveling, overnight stays and supplies and clothes tailored to the volunteer work. What you spend to volunteer can reduce your federal income taxes, just as as donations of money and property do.
Traveling from home to volunteer can yield deductions. Qualified costs for getting to the destination include driving, tickets for an airline, train or bus, and taxi fares for the airport trip. For using your car, you can deduct either what you spend on gas or multiply your mileage by 14 cents. If you stay at least one night when volunteering, you may deduct the price of a hotel or motel room, and you can also deduct the cost of meals. You must avoid treating the trip as recreation or personal time, though getting satisfaction from volunteering does not render the trip nondeductible. You must be a delegate or member of the charity for which you are volunteering to deduct the costs of travel to a convention or meeting.
Uniforms and Supplies
You may reduce from your taxable income the price of buying or cleaning a uniform to volunteer at places such as a hospital or a national forest. You must wear the uniform while volunteering. The uniform must be primarily for the volunteer work rather than normal daily use; clothes you can normally wear at functions or activities other than volunteering are not deductible uniforms. You may write off the cost of buying equipment or supplies, such as a camera or film in photographing the nonprofit's activities, but not depreciation for the equipment.
Time and Property
You may deduct only out-of-pocket expenses for volunteering. Therefore, the value of your time or services does not qualify on your federal taxes. However, some states, including Virginia, offer professionals such as doctors a portion of their regular hourly rates as a tax credit for volunteering at free or non-profit medical clinics.
Requirement to Itemize
Federal tax write-offs for volunteering apply only if you itemize deductions. These specific deductions are listed on Schedule A of your Form 1040 and include state and local taxes, mortgage interest, losses because of disasters, fires or theft and medical and dental expenses. The IRS provides a standard deduction in lieu of itemized deductions if the latter is less.
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 526: Charitable Contributions
- Internal Revenue Service: Notice 2012-1: 2012 Standard Mileage Rates
- La Crosse Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America: Tax Information for Church Volunteers
- American Medical Association: Report of the Council on Medical Service
Christopher Raines enjoys sharing his knowledge of business, financial matters and the law. He earned his business administration and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a lawyer since August 1996, Raines has handled cases involving business, consumer and other areas of the law.