Tax Breaks for Charitable Work

Here’s why it’s important to have a detailed log of your expenses while working with a charity.

Question: As a retiree, I’ve been volunteering more with nonprofits. Can I deduct expenses when traveling to meetings on behalf of the charities? - S.A., Marietta, Ga.

Answer: You can deduct unreimbursed travel expenses as a charitable donation if you file an itemized tax return and the trip is primarily for your work with the nonprofit. You can deduct airfare, lodging, meals and—if driving—parking, tolls and mileage at a rate of 14 cents per mile. Keep a mileage log with the date and reason for the trip. You should get a letter from the charity confirming your activity and stating that no goods or services were exchanged, says Morris Armstrong, an enrolled agent in Cheshire, Conn., who can represent taxpayers before the IRS.

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Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.