Is This Deductible? My Volunteer Work

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How do you spend your spare time? Many people spend time giving back to their communities. Whether you volunteer at your children’s schools, the  animal shelter, or participate in a local clean-up effort, you may be one of the people who find volunteering to be a way to make a difference in the world. It doesn’t matter if you are using your business skills or hammering a nail for the first time, whatever you do to help a worthwhile cause may have tax benefits. Here’s what you need to know.

To take a tax deduction for your volunteer work, no matter what you do, you must be rendering services to a qualified 501 (c)(3) organization that meets the IRS requirements for receiving tax deductible donations.

As you might guess, the major public charities are qualified organizations, and many lesser known charities qualify as well. It is important to affiliate yourself with one of those organizations – if you and your best friend decide to clean up the beach one morning, strictly on your own, there won’t be any tax deductions available to you unless you are part of a greater structure.

To find out tax-exempt status of a charity,  you can use IRS Exempt Organization Select Check.

So what can you deduct?

Here’s the bad news first. No matter how valuable your time is, you can’t take a deduction for the time you spend in charitable endeavors. Walking the dogs at the local shelter is invaluable, there’s no question, but it doesn’t generate a tax deduction.

But wait! Keep reading to find out what you can deduct. Before you go to the shelter to walk the dog, do you put dog treats into your pocket that you bought for that purpose? The expense you incur for the dog biscuits is tax deductible. So are the supplies you buy to use in your child’s classroom, and the bags you purchase to use at the charity-sponsored community cleanup. If you incur fundraising expenses, such as hosting a party for the charity, ka-ching! The expenses of that party are tax deductible. Do you wear a uniform while volunteering? The cost of the uniform and the costs to clean it are deductible.  You may also deduct parking fees and tolls, as well as mileage at 14 cents per mile. If you use public transportation during your volunteering, that’s tax deductible as well.

So go ahead, pick up the phone and tell your local charity you’d like to volunteer. You’ll get the satisfaction of making a difference, make lots of new friends, and may even garner a tax deduction.

Still haven’t filed your taxes? Don’t worry you still have time, but don’t forget those charitable donations you made last year. TurboTax ItsDeductible will help you easily and accurately track and value your charitable donations and will transfer to your tax return.  TurboTax will also ask you simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your answers.

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