Tax deductions for charity travel expenses

If you spent your summer serving with a global nonprofit, traveling on a short-term church mission trip, or volunteering in a developing nation across the globe, some of your out of pocket expenses may be tax deductible.

For a taxpayer to deduct costs, they must volunteer for a qualified charity. Most groups must apply to the IRS to become qualified. Churches and governments are generally qualified, and do not need to apply to the IRS. A taxpayer should ask the group about its status before they donate. Taxpayers can also use the Select Check tool on IRS.gov to check a group’s status.

A taxpayer may be able to deduct some of their costs including travel. These out-of-pocket expenses must be necessary while the taxpayer is away from home. All costs must be unreimbursed, directly connected with the services, expenses the taxpayer had only because of the services the taxpayer gave, and not personal, living, or family expenses.

The charity work the taxpayer is involved with has to be real and substantial throughout the trip. The taxpayer can’t deduct expenses if they only have nominal duties or do not have any duties for significant parts of the trip.

A taxpayer can’t deduct the value of their time or services that they give to charity. This includes income lost while the taxpayer serves as an unpaid volunteer for a qualified charity.

The types of expenses a taxpayer may be able to deduct include air fare, rail tickets, bus transportation, car expenses, lodging costs, cost of meals, and taxi or other transportation costs between the airport or station and their hotel.

Some types of travel do not qualify for a tax deduction. For example, a taxpayer can’t deduct their costs if a significant part of the trip involves recreation or vacation.