Deducting costume for military re-enactment

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Q. I run a charity that does military re-enactments, and we give money to veterans groups. Can I deduct the cost of the uniforms I buy out of my own pocket?
— Looking for savings

A. Our nation’s civil war, which ended more than 150 years ago, has become one of the most popular events in history for re-enactment.

If the re-enactments are part of a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational corporation such as the National Civil War Association, you have the opportunity for some deductions, said Roy Williams, president and founder of Prestige Wealth Management in Flemington and Millburn.

Williams said if you itemize your deductions on your tax return using Form 1040, Schedule A, then most expenses related to re-enacting as a part of a qualified 501(c)3 non-profit educational corporation are tax deductible, as long as you follow a few rules.

First, you membership dues and any donations of money are fully deductible, he said.

You can also deduct your mileage to and from events and meetings at $0.14 a mile, but be sure you keep detailed records to your travel as proof, Williams said.

“With regard to expenses you make that aid in your period impression — uniforms, tents, chairs, kit, guns, black powder, etc. — I would be reluctant to take this as a deduction, as re-enactment falls in the hobby corner of the regulations,” Williams said. “Generally you can deduct hobby expenses, but only to the extent of hobby income.”

You may also have the opportunity to deduct some meals.

According to IRS Publication 526, “You cannot deduct… the cost of meals you eat while performing services for a qualified organization, unless it is necessary for you to be away from home overnight while performing the services.”

“Therefore, meals you eat when attending a weekend-long re-enactment or living history event are fully tax-deductible,” Williams said. “Meals should not be `lavish or extravagant’ or the deduction will be disallowed.”

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This post was first published in May 2017.

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