Tax deductibility of volunteer expenses for a not-for-profit charity

Can I deduct the travel expenses used to volunteer for a legally defined not-for-profit charity where I talk to congress members and their staff about the issues affecting my area? If the answer can’t be given because you are not my lawyer or accountant, can you give me links where I might be able to read up on the answer?

I want something in writing on the web to make sure I’m on firm ground before I use these deductions.

Back story if this helps (or just makes the post interesting). I’m an active volunteer on public lands protection in Southern California and was invited along with Hawkwife to Washington by a nonprofit group for training on how congress works and also to meet with the various So Cal members of congress or their staffs. They had money to pay my air and half hotel costs but not for Hawkwife. I would like to deduct the cost of my wife’s airfare and the non-reimbursed half hotel cost. Am I on solid legal ground?

My friends play in a community band that is set up as a non-profit. They have an accountant do their taxes. The accountant deducts their car mileage when traveling to and from band events.

I’m planning to volunteer at a legally defined not-for-profit soup kitchen in Maui, Hawaii for a couple hours. Can I deduct my airfare and hotel costs there to enable that work?

Travel expenses are normally deductible for volunteer/charity purposes for a 501c3 nonprofit. It’s important to know that not all nonprofits are 501c3.

However, I question the deduction here on other grounds. What you’re doing sounds like lobbying, and expenses of that type are not deductible, even if you’re doing them for a non-profit.

And, since you’re saying that you want something written to rely on, I’m going to have to include a Circular 230 disclaimer here: To comply with IRS requirements, please be advised that, unless otherwise stated by the sender, any tax advice contained in this message and its attachments is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient to avoid any federal tax penalty that may be imposed on the recipient, or to promote, market or recommend to another any referenced entity, investment plan or arrangement.

Take a look at publication 526 at www.irs.gov. Looks like you can deduct mileage (either actual or 14 cents per mile).

I’ve been hitting up the google. I’m not finding clear definitions but these seem to support my using the tax deduction. Anyone know better places for somewhat clear and consice answers?

Here’s one link to an article on where the legal line is: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25838144/ns/us_news-giving/Most relevant quote:
"To be sure, 501©(4) nonprofits tend to be a little more outspoken than other types of charities. That’s because they are permitted by law to lobby and advocate — but only if their advocacy doesn’t comprise the bulk of what they do. "

Here’s one on deductions: http://www.nonprofitfundraisingblog.com/2008/04/tax-deduction-advice-for-your.htmlTravel expenses. In cases where the volunteer is away from home performing services – perhaps attending a convention or board meeting, taking underprivileged kids on a camping trip, or monitoring environmental destruction – they can deduct their related expenses, such as airfare and other transportation, accommodations, and meals. However, there are important limitations on this one: The volunteer must gain no significant personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. (Going on a fun trip and refusing to enjoy it probably won’t make it deductible, either.) And the volunteer must really be working – tagging along on an outing while performing nominal duties, or even no duties for significant parts of the trip, won’t cut it.

If your wife is not volunteering (working) I do not think you will be able to deduct her expences.

Probably not very much of it.

You could deduct them, up to the value of the ‘couple of hours’ of time you volunteer. And the IRS will be pretty strict in setting a value on that. Did you have special training, or is it some grunt work that any untrained volunteer can do? If so, they won’t value it at much more than minimum wage. The top value would probably be your normal rate of pay at your job.

So for a ‘couple of hours’ of volunteer work, you could probably deduct $30 or $40 from your $2,000-$3,000 of expenses.

The answer to the OP’s question is no, you can’t deduct your wife’s expenses. From the IRS website:

Some of the information given in this thread is not correct. You absolutely can not take a deduction based on the value of your time, for example.

Don’t rely on advice you get here, or from articles that you goggle, because much of it is inaccurate. If you’re going to rely on anything, rely on the IRS. If you can;t find an answer at their website you can call and ask.