March 14, 2013

Travel and Meals for Volunteers

Question:

Are volunteer miles deductible? If so what are the limitations on taking a deduction for these miles? If an individual stops for lunch on the way to volunteer can he no longer count the miles? If he has a meal provided for him for volunteering does the meal cancel out any deductible miles?

Answer:

The Instructions for Schedule A deal with charitable deductions. Specifically for charitable miles it says, "If you drove to and from the volunteer work, you can take the actual cost of gas and oil or 14 cents a mile. Add parking and tolls to the amount you claim under either method. But do not deduct any amounts that were repaid to you."

Meals provided to volunteers in the conduct of their service are not taxable to the volunteer.  According to IRS Publication 526,  

"You cannot deduct personal, living, or family expenses, such as the following items.

-- The cost of meals you eat while you perform services for a qualified organization, unless it is necessary for you to be away from home overnight while performing the services."
In these cases, a volunteer may deduct "reasonable amounts for lodging and meals while away from home overnight."

While in transit to a charitable event or service, any diversion for personal purposes cannot add to the deductible mileage (e.g., personal meals).

Additional help with determining amounts which may be deductible as charitable giving can be found in Publication 526.

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