Make Traveling for Charity Part Of Your Summertime Tax Savings Strategy
In addition to planning a fun family get-away this summer, you might want to carve out some time to donate your services to a noble cause as well. For all of you summertime volunteers, listen up and make plans to use some of your travel expenses to help lower your tax bill. Here’s how.
- Make sure you are volunteering your services to qualified charities. If you want to deduct your expenses, the IRS needs to know that the charity you are working with is legit. There are several great online resources that can help you determine if the organization you are helping out is qualified. The IRS’s EO Select Check tool and Guidestar are two of my favorites.
- Track all out-of-pocket expenses. If you are making necessary purchases that are not directly connected with the services you are performing and are not considered personal living or family expenses; and these expenses were directly result of the volunteerism opportunity, then you may be able take a deduction on your tax return. Keep in mind that you also can’t receive reimbursement by any other means. The ability to deduct out-of-pocket expenses, particularly travel expenses, has huge savings implications. Some of the types of expenses you can deduct include:
- Transportation to and from the job site via plane, train or automobile. This includes any transportation costs accrued for travel between the airport or train station and your hotel.
- Roll up your sleeves and make a big impact. If you are only tagging along or if your duties are minimal, you are not going to be able to make a claim on your tax return. According to the IRS, your charity work must be “real and substantial throughout the trip.” In other words, don’t dillydally!
Now that you know what to do to, let’s take a look at what not to do – or rather, what is not tax deductible.
- Travel expenses for tagalongs are not deductible. Meaning, only the expenses for the individual(s) volunteering their services can be written off at tax time. For example, if you decided to take your children along on the trip but they will not be logging volunteer hours, you cannot deduct their portion of the travel expenses.
- Your time and services are valuable, but you can’t deduct the value of your time and services. This is particularly true for those who are donating professional services, including medical, financial and legal. You also can’t deduct the income you may have lost while you were working as an unpaid volunteer for a qualified charity.
- You cannot package work and play into a single deductible expense. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy yourself or go out to the beach after a long day of building schools in a third-world country; but if a significant part of your trip is reserved solely for recreational purposes or a vacation, your claim will be denied.
For more information about potential summertime tax savings, email Rea & Associates. You may be surprised by how much you can save when you’re on a mission to do work for those in need!
By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)