Q. My son volunteers at a hospital and I drive him there. Can I deduct the cost of the mileage or anything else for my time?
A. Rules about charitable deductions are very specific, so we’re glad you asked.
The IRS says that certain amounts are not deductible as charitable contributions, and one category of these is a gift to an individual, said Cynthia Fusillo, a certified public accountant with Lassus Wherley in New Providence.
Unfortunately, she said, your situation falls within this category.
In fact, she said, there is a specific example on point in Publication 526, Charitable Contributions: “Your son does missionary work. You pay his expenses. You can’t claim a deduction for your son’s unreimbursed expenses related to his contribution of services.”
The rule applies even though you probably claim your son as a dependent on your return, she said.
There are a few other items to note when it comes to the deductibility of volunteer expenses.
First, Fusillo said, you can never deduct the value of your time or services.
“You can deduct car expenses which would mean the cost of gasoline and oil directly related to driving to and from the place you volunteer,” she said. “You may, instead, use the standard mileage rate currently at 14 cents per mile.”
If a uniform is required to be worn while you volunteer, you may also deduct the cost of the uniform and the cost of cleaning it, she said.
And you cannot deduct the cost of paying a babysitter to watch your kids while you perform your volunteer duties.
“Of course it should go without saying that your expenses must be unreimbursed to be deductible,” Fusillo said. “If the charitable organization reimburses you then the reimbursable portion is not deductible as that would be double-dipping.”
You also can’t receive a benefit for the volunteer activity you perform.
Finally, all of your volunteer activities must be for qualified charitable organizations in order to be deductible, Fusillo said.
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