Although, in the United States, the IRS does allow some tax deductions for volunteer work, people cannot actually deduct the value of their time. Individuals can deduct certain other expenses, such as car expenses or mileage, travel expenses, the cost of purchasing and cleaning required uniforms, and the costs associated with caring for a child selected by a charity.
First of all, though, it is important to note that these tax deductions only apply if the organization a person volunteers at qualifies as a charity under the IRS’s definition. Organizations that qualify include:
- Churches and other religious organizations
- Nonprofit charitable organizations, such as Goodwill
- Nonprofit educational organizations, such as museums
- Nonprofit hospitals or organizations for conducting medical research
- Public parks
If the organization falls into one of these categories, volunteers may be eligible to take some deductions for their work. An organization should know if it qualifies, so volunteers may want to ask for the appropriate documentation when they do their work.
Unfortunately, the value of the time spent is not one of the deductions that individuals can claim. For instance, if someone volunteers to write a press release for a qualifying nonprofit, she cannot claim her normal fees as a tax deduction. In general, however, she can claim certain expenses related to her volunteer work, such as car expenses, travel expenses, uniform expenses, and a few others.
For instance, if a volunteer drives 30 miles (48.2 km) each way to volunteer at a qualifying animal rescue, she can elect to deduct either the expenses directly related to that commute or the mileage she drove multiplied by the standard mileage deduction. In 2009, the standard mileage deduction was 14 cents per mile, so that 60 mile round trip would mean that the volunteer could deduct $8.40 US Dollars (USD) for every time she volunteered at the rescue. Alternatively, she could figure out the exact expenses and deduct those.
Travel expenses are also deductible when they pertain to volunteer work. For instance, if someone is involved in animal rescue or is an expert, such as a vet or trainer, and she travels in order to volunteer her services after a puppy mill is shut down, she can deduct expenses such as the cost of plane or bus fare, car expenses if she drives, lodgings for overnight stays, and meals. These expenses are only considered to be deductable if the majority of the time is spent volunteering.
Additionally, some other expenses related to volunteer work are tax deductible. If the volunteer is required to buy a uniform to work in, and the uniform is not something she can wear outside of work, she can deduct the cost of buying and cleaning the uniform. Additionally, if a person cares for a child that has been placed with her by an organization — meaning that the volunteer did not have any choice in the child — she can deduct any related expenses that she is not reimbursed for.