Charitable giving: Don’t miss a deduction

Charitable giving: Don't miss a deduction

Although you can’t deduct the value of time and energy spent on charitable endeavors, you can often write off un-reimbursed expenses incurred while performing charitable duties. Here are some of the more commonly overlooked charitable deductions.

  • Travel expenses: Generally, you can deduct travel expenses on behalf of a charity if you did not gain significant personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation. If you travel by car, you can use a flat rate of 14 cents per mile. But at times, qualified charitable expenses can include air, rail, or bus transportation, and tracking of actual vehicle expense. It can even include qualified lodging and meals.
  • Electronic communications: Don’t forget to deduct specific charges for telephones, cell phones, fax machines, and computers incurred on behalf of a qualified charity. You may also write off costs for a separate landline in your home if used exclusively for charitable functions. The trick here is to clearly show the activity is related to the charity.
  • Conventions: When you’re a designated delegate for a charity, unreimbursed expenses at a convention, including reasonable amounts for meals and lodging, are deductible. But the accommodations can’t be overly lavish.
  • Entertainment expenses: You may be able to deduct reasonable costs of sending underprivileged youths to athletic events, movies, or dinners to help reduce juvenile delinquency. But expenses for your own ticket or tickets for your children are not deductible. If you host a fundraising dinner or party at your home, your out-of-pocket expenses for the event can be deductible.
  • Exchange students: Taxpayers who provide a foreign exchange student with a place to live may deduct up to $50 monthly for each month the child attends high school. But the student must reside in the taxpayer’s home under a written agreement and cannot be a relative.
  • Uniforms: Even the cost and upkeep of special uniforms needed to perform charitable services, such as Boy or Girl Scout uniforms for group leaders, are deductible.

This area of the tax code requires excellent recordkeeping. The IRS is quick to question large dollar amounts associated with charitable work, so keep your receipts and document your activities. Call us if have questions.