The IRS will not allow individuals to deduct the monetary value of their volunteer service to a nonprofit on their individual income tax returns. But volunteers may be able to deduct for certain volunteer expenses.
1. No monetary deduction for volunteer time and service.
Volunteers cannot deduct the monetary value of their time volunteering to an organization. (The general rule is that you donate cash or items for it to count as a deduction).
- Example: An individual volunteers three hours of her time in the mail room at a nonprofit organization. Normally, the nonprofit would pay a staff person for this service at a rate of $10 per hour. Great work…but the individual cannot claim a monetary deduction of $30 for this volunteer service.
- Example: An attorney gives 5 hours of pro bono work to a nonprofit she supports. Her legal rate is $200/hour. Great work…but she cannot deduct that $1,000 as a monetary deduction on her taxes.
Again, the IRS does not allow you to assign a value to your time for charitable donation purposes. But certain expenses related to the charitable work may be claimed.
2. Certain expenses can be deducted related to volunteer service.
As a volunteer, some out-of-pocket expenses may be deducted. These expenses must
- not have been reimbursed by the charity
- be directly tied to the volunteer service provided to the nonprofit
- have been incurred only because of the service the volunteer donated
- not have been for personal, living, or family expenses.
The IRS has several items that an individual can claim as a deduction on their individual income tax returns. Most of them are very specific.
Two common examples:
- Mileage: You can deduct the cost of getting to and from the place you volunteer using your vehicle. If you do not want to figure the exact cost of gas and oil used, you can calculate your deduction using the rate of 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations. See IRS Standard Mileage Rates as these rates are subject change.
- Example: During the year you volunteer 12 times at a nonprofit organization that is 10 miles away (round trip: 20 miles). The total number of miles traveled for your volunteer service is 240 miles for the year. Your deduction for mileage to volunteer would be $33.60.
- Uniforms – If the organization you volunteer for requires a uniform, the cost of purchasing and cleaning your uniform can be deducted if the organization is a qualified institution (churches, nonprofit charitable groups, nonprofit hospitals, etc.) and the uniform is unsuitable for everyday use.
- Example: The nonprofit hospital you volunteer at requires you to wear scrubs. You must purchase them, pay to clean them, and they are not suitable for every day use. This is an appropriate expense.
- Example: The nonprofit theater you volunteer at requires you to wear black pants and a black shirt while you volunteer as an usher. This would not be a deductible expense since the items are suitable for everyday use.
Other possible deductions that you may have from volunteer work may include supplies you purchase to be used in volunteer work, such as stamps and stationery. Certain expenses tied to hosting a fundraiser or event for the organization may be deductible, as well.
3. Must be for qualified organization.
Your donation will be deductible only if it is made to a qualified nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. That is, the IRS must have granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status to the group.
You can find out if the group is a qualified 501(c)(3) organization several ways:
- Ask the group for a copy of their 501(c)(3) determination letter and letter of affirmation.
- Check IRS Publication 78, a list of organizations qualified to receive tax-deductible donations. You can find at www.irs.gov.
- Call the IRS’s Tax Exempt Customer Account Services line, at 877-829-5500.
We’d love to help!
The Cullinane Law Group works exclusively with the nonprofit sector. We set up and maintain strong and legally compliant nonprofits that have solid bases for long-term success. We provide risk management and offer practical solutions for sound governance. We help nonprofits, foundations, religious organizations, and social entrepreneurs throughout the United States who seek to create positive change.