Tax Credits for Volunteering Costs

Volunteers in the United States can receive tax deductions from the federal government on many costs associated with volunteering, such as mileage and other travel expenses, paper, copying, convention attendance fees, parking, uniforms (if the volunteer purchases his or her own), etc. These deductions apply ONLY if you are NOT getting reimbursed for these expenses by the organization you are assisting, and you are itemizing on your tax form (not if you use the 1040 EZ form).

Hours spent volunteering are not deductible. Pro bono consulting may be, if you have a bill for the time you contributed performing work that, as a professional, you are usually paid for. Many agencies and pro bono consultants handle this situation by having the consultant bill the agency, then the agency pays the bill, and the consultant donates that money back to the agency. Talk with an accountant for more information.

IRS's publication 526 -- Charitable Contributions has complete information. This information from the IRS web site:

"Contributions you cannot deduct at all include contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates, the value of your time or services and the cost of raffles, bingo, or other games of chance. You cannot deduct contributions that you give to qualified organizations if, as a result, you receive or expect to receive a financial or economic benefit equal to the contribution.

Although you cannot deduct the value of your time or services, you can deduct the expenses you incur while donating your services to a qualified organization. If the expenses are for travel, which may include transportation and meals and lodging while away from home, they may be deducted only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. Actual costs of gas and oil can be deducted, or you can choose to take mileage deductions.

For more on this, check out the IRS web page on this subject at There is also information on the IRS Charitable Contributions Publication 526.

Remember that most agencies do NOT reimburse volunteers for costs associated with volunteering. If you think you are going to incur a cost because of a volunteering task, get approval from the agency first; there may be a way to work it out so that it's not necessary for you to incur costs at all. Even if the organization cannot reimburse you, they may want a written record of your expenses, to document the "costs" of volunteering for some people.