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Is volunteering tax deductible?

Apr 9, 2012, 6 a.m.

One of the nicest things about being retired is being able to use your talents to benefit causes and organizations you care about. Whether it's helping out at the animal shelter, reading to chronically ill patients at the local nursing home, or teaching children's Sunday school classes, it feels good to donate your time. Although no one volunteers to make money, there are a few tax advantages to volunteer work. Below are a few places to look for those deductions:

  1. Mileage. Do you use your vehicle while doing volunteer work? Perhaps, you drive nursing home residents to doctors appointments or deliver hot meals to shut-ins. The U.S. tax law allows you to deduct either the exact cost of gasoline or keep a mileage log and use the standard mileage deduction (currently 14 cents per mile for charitable work.)
  2. Uniforms. Do you have to buy a uniform for your volunteer work, such as a hospital smock or nurses' shoes? If you are not reimbursed and you use these items exclusively for your volunteer work, you can use them as income tax deductions.
  3. Volunteer vacations. The cost of volunteer vacations, those trips where you travel to do something charitable, are generally tax deductible. These are trips, organized or not, such as traveling to build a school on a Native American reservation or to rebuild a church after a natural disaster. In general, any unreimbursed cost of transportation and accommodations is deductible.

Of course, tax circumstances and deductions vary by individual. It is best to discuss any tax issues with your accountant.

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