Tips for Taxpayers Who Travel for Charity Work

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Do you plan to travel while doing charity work this summer? Some travel expenses may help lower your taxes if you itemize deductions when you file next year. Here are five tax tips the IRS wants you to know about travel while serving a charity.
  1. You must volunteer to work for a qualified organization. Ask the charity about its tax-exempt status. You can also visit IRS.gov and use the Select Check tool to see if the group is qualified.
  2. You may be able to deduct unreimbursed travel expenses you pay while serving as a volunteer. You can’t deduct the value of your time or services.
  3. The deduction qualifies only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation in the travel. However, the deduction will qualify even if you enjoy the trip.
  4. You can deduct your travel expenses if your work is real and substantial throughout the trip. You can’t deduct expenses if you only have nominal duties or do not have any duties for significant parts of the trip.
  5. Deductible travel expenses may include:
    • Air, rail and bus transportation
    • Car expenses
    • Lodging costs
    • The cost of meals
    • Taxi fares or other transportation costs between the airport or station and your hotel

To learn more see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. The booklet is available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Where did I get this tip?  No I do not spend a lot of time on IRS.gov.  Two to three times a month I receive the Exempt Organization Update from the IRS in my email inbox.  If you would like to subscribe to this update, you can do so here.  You may be thinking, “I don’t need an email update from the IRS.”  I think that every time I open the email, but each email includes at least one tip that is relevant to me.  Try it out for a couple months and see if it is helpful to you as well.  Again, you can subscribe here.
What are some links that are helpful to you as you do nonprofit charity work?  Please share in the comments section.
Comments (2) Add yours ↓
  1. addie | culicurious

    This is a great resource. I actually have some local work to do in the city that will require me to travel to the West Bank. I’ll bring this to my accountant to see if we can deduct the mileage on my car. Thanks for the tip! I wouldn’t have thought about this otherwise.

    August 1, 2013 Reply
    • adamsuter

      Cool! Glad it is helpful Addie. Thank you for the feedback.

      August 2, 2013 Reply

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