5 tips for taking a tax deduction when helping your favorite charity involves travel

Several readers of this blog have asked questions about taking deductions for travel while helping a charity. Volunteers at your NPO are probably asking the same questions.  Some tips from IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2013-05 might help.

You might want to make this available to volunteers of your organization. The quoted text is from the IRS, so it is in the public domain:

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).

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