Single Out Charitable Volunteers for Tax Breaks
- The cost of air, rail, bus, or taxicab fare spent while performing services for a charity are deductible. Furthermore, you may deduct meals and lodging expenses on a charitable trip. But remember, there can't be any significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel.
- If you use your own vehicle to drive to charitable events or functions, you can deduct the expenses attributable to those trips – gas, oil, insurance, and repairs – or use a flat-rate deduction of fourteen cents per mile (plus related parking fees and tolls).
- If you're required to wear a uniform or other special clothing during certain activities – such as troop leaders for the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts – you may deduct the cost as long as it's not suitable for everyday wear). In addition, the cost of cleaning the clothing counts toward the deduction for miscellaneous expenses.
- Although you can't deduct basic landline or cell phone charges, additional costs for long-distance telephone calls are deductible. Similarly, you may write off the cost of a separate phone or fax line installed in your home solely for charitable activities.
- When you host a gathering at your home  to promote charitable fundraising, you can deduct the cost as a charitable expense without regard to the usual 50 percent limit on entertainment deductions.
- You can deduct the costs associated with attending a convention on behalf of a charitable organization if you've been designated as an official delegate to the convention. This includes meals and lodging while you're staying at the convention.
- If you house a nonrelative foreign exchange student, you can deduct up to $50 per month of your expenses for each month the child attends school; however, the student must be residing in your home under a written agreement with a qualified charitable organization.
- A taxpayer can deduct the cost of paper, postage, and other out-of-pocket costs incurred while sending out mailings on behalf of a charity – even amounts spent on paper clips and staples.
Finally, the usual rules for charitable deductions apply to volunteers, including annual limits and the reduction of tax benefits for certain upper-income taxpayers. Keep these rules in mind when offering advice to clients.
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