I am a full-service travel professional.  To be clear, I am not a tax professional and I only know one tax tip, but it’s a good one.  Did you know that you can deduct charity-related travel expenses? 

There are some rules, of course.  First off, the charity that you travel to must be a qualified charity.  Most groups must apply to the IRS in order to get qualified.  Churches and governments usually qualify.  Ask the group that you’re going to volunteer with to confirm their status or you can use the Select Check Tool on IRS.gov to check a group’s status as a qualified charity.

Second, a taxpayer can’t deduct the value of their time or services that they give to charity.  That includes income lost while volunteering.  But (here comes my tip), a taxpayer may be able to deduct some of their costs including travel.  Per the IRS, these out-of-pocket expenses must be necessary while the taxpayer is away from home.  All costs must be:

  • unreimbursed
  • directly connected with the volunteer services
  • expenses incurred directly because of the volunteer services
  • not personal, living or family expenses. 

Additionally, the charity work the taxpayer is involved with has to be real and substantial through the trip.

So, what are the travel expenses you may be able to deduct from your taxes?  It actually could be a substantial part of your total trip costs.  It includes: 

  • Air, rail, taxi and bus transportation
  • Car expenses
  • Lodging costs
  • Cost of meals

Now, you’ve got to be careful if you’re trying to combine charity work together with a vacation trip as that might cause the largest trip cost (the flight) to no longer be deductible.  Talk to a tax professional to guide you there.   You’ll need to make sure your charity travel expenses and your vacation travel expenses are separate and distinct. But this is worth looking into — especially if travel costs are discouraging you from specific charity work.  It’s worth learning more and talking to your tax professional.  For more on these rules, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. You can find it on IRS.gov/forms.