Tax tips for volunteers


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — CPA Michelle Staebell discussed some tax breaks volunteers can take advantage of Monday during News 8 at Sunrise.

Staebell said the deductions are limited to taxpayers who itemize their deductions. “Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, most taxpayers are taking the standard deduction alternative. But if a taxpayer volunteers and they itemize their deductions, they may be able to deduct lots of things like travel, transportation, hotels, and supplies.”

It’s worth noting, even if you use the standard deduction on your federal tax return, you can itemize your state return in New York, so keep track of these possible deductions.

Staebell said the IRS has a great list on its website to identify any 501(c)(3) organization which qualifies or allows a volunteer to qualify for the deductions.

As it relates to travel, if you’re using public transportation – buses, taxis, airplanes, and the like – those expenses can be deducted as long as the travel is directly related to the volunteering, no matter the distance. “If a taxpayer is using the personal car, just take the mileage deduction,” Staebell said. “It’s 14 cents a mile, which isn’t huge, but as long as the taxpayer keeps a log that has the date traveled, the number of miles and the volunteer purpose, then the IRS would use that as substantiation for that deduction.”

Staebell noted the same option applies to hotel stays and meals. If they relate to the volunteer activity, they too can be deducted.

If you’re not sure whether an expense associated with volunteering is deductible, Staebell recommends consulting a trust CPA.

For more Smart Money advice, visit the New York State Society of CPAs website.

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