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Traveling for Charity?

Are you going on a mission trip? Do you deliver meals on wheels? Here are some tips when you want to deduct charity related travel costs.

Qualified Charities. 

  • For a taxpayer to deduct costs, they must volunteer for a qualified charity. Churches and governments are generally qualified but if you are not traveling for a church we suggest that you either ask the group about its status before they donate or check on the IRS website at  Select Check tool on

Out-of-Pocket Expenses.

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.

Genuine and Substantial Duty. 

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.

Value of Time or Service.

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.

 Travel Expenses a Taxpayer Can Deduct. 

The types of expenses a taxpayer may be able to deduct include:

  • Air, rail and bus transportation,
  • Car expenses,
  • Lodging costs,
  • Cost of meals, and
  • Taxi or other transportation costs between the airport or station and their hotel.

Travel Expenses a Taxpayer Can’t Deduct.

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.

If you would like more information, the IRS has published Publication 526 which you can access on this link

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