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Traveling for charity? Here’s what you can deduct:

Posted on August 17, 2017

Several Teipen Selanders Poynter & Ayres clients travel because of their involvement with a qualified charity. Because these folks are providing time and work for the benefit of others, some of their expenses may be deducted from their taxes.

Here are some tax tips from the CPAs at TSPA to use when deducting charity-related travel expenses:

  • First and foremost, your charity must be qualified. Charities must apply to the IRS to become qualified. Churches and nationally recognized nonprofits are generally qualified, but be sure you know before you travel. Use the Select Check tool on gov to check your group’s status.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses: You may be able to deduct some of your “necessary out-of-pocket expenses” while traveling, if, according to the IRS, these costs are:
  1. Unreimbursed,
  2. Directly connected with your service,
  3. Expenses you incur only because of the services you provided.
  4. (That means any and all personal, living or family expenses are not)
  • Genuine and substantial is how the IRS classifies work you are involved with while on your trip. In other words, you can’t deduct expenses if you have nominal duties or no duties for significant parts of your trip. For instance, if you travel to Haiti for a week but provide only a day or two of charity service and spend the remainder of your time vacationing, you cannot deduct the airfare for your trip.
  • Service value: Even if you are a professional, you cannot deduct the value of your time or services that you give to charity. Your time and service, by definition, is donated. This includes income lost while you serve as an unpaid volunteer for a qualified charity.

If you meet all the criteria above, what can you deduct?

According to TSPA CPAs, quite a bit, including:

  • Air, rail and bus transportation
  • Car expense
  • Lodging costs
  • Cost of meals
  • Transportation costs between the airport or station and your hotel.

For more information, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions on gov/forms.

The CPAs at Teipen Selanders Poynter & Ayres understand that not all charitable travel fits neatly in the categories outlined above. If you have specific questions, ask us. We’re always pleased to weigh in objectively and “charitably”, based on our experience with IRS rules and regulations.