Are Charitable Mileage Deductions Tax Deductible?

Updated on February 5, 2024

At a Glance

  • Volunteers can deduct mileage driven for charitable purposes on their tax return.
  • The standard mileage rate for charitable mileage in 2021 is 14 cents per mile.
  • Itemizing deductions on Schedule A is required to claim the deduction.
  • Actual expenses for gas and oil can be deducted instead of using the standard mileage rate.

Many volunteers incur travel expenses as they contribute their time and effort to charitable organizations. One common question is whether the mileage driven for charitable purposes is tax-deductible. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does offer a deduction for the use of a personal vehicle in the service of a charity, but it’s crucial to understand the rules and limits of this deduction. This article will provide details on the deductibility of charitable mileage and the process for claiming it on your tax return.

Deductibility of Charitable Mileage

The IRS allows taxpayers to deduct mileage driven for charitable purposes as an itemized deduction on Schedule A (Form 1040). However, you can’t deduct the cost of driving to and from work, even if you volunteer on a regular basis.

Rate for Charitable Mileage Deduction

For 2021, the standard mileage rate for the use of your car (also vans, pickups, or panel trucks) when volunteering for a charity is 14 cents per mile. It’s important to note that this rate is set by Congress and does not change annually like the rates for business and medical or moving purposes.

For the most current rates, refer to the IRS’s standard mileage rates page.

Qualifying Charitable Organizations

To claim a mileage deduction for charity-related travel, the organization you volunteer for must be a qualified organization under IRS rules. These typically include religious institutions, nonprofit schools and hospitals, public parks and recreation facilities, and other organizations listed in IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

How to Claim Charitable Mileage Deduction

To claim a deduction for charitable mileage:

  • You must itemize your deductions on Schedule A. The total of your itemized deductions should exceed the standard deduction for your filing status to make itemizing worthwhile.
  • Record your mileage, along with dates and purposes of your charity-related trips, throughout the year in a log or diary.
  • Determine the number of miles driven for charitable work and multiply that by the standard rate for the deduction amount.
  • Keep receipts for any tolls or parking fees as these are also deductible along with your mileage.

Other Considerations

  • Actual Expenses vs. Standard Mileage: Instead of using the standard mileage rate, you can deduct the actual costs of gas and oil associated with your charitable work, but you need detailed records.
  • Documentation and Records: Maintain accurate records of your charitable work and associated travel expenses. Keep your charity’s acknowledgment of your volunteer work, as well as a logbook of your miles driven, gas receipts if using actual expenses, and any receipts for parking or tolls.
  • Unreimbursed Expenses Only: Only the unreimbursed expenses incurred in the service of a charitable organization can be deducted. Any amounts that have been repaid to you cannot be claimed.

Final Thoughts

While volunteering itself doesn’t offer a tax deduction, out-of-pocket expenses, including mileage, can be deducted when you support a qualified charitable organization. These deductions can reduce your taxable income and, consequently, your overall tax burden if you itemize your deductions on your federal tax return.

To ensure you are effectively claiming the charitable mileage deduction, consult with a tax professional or refer to the IRS’s guide to charitable contribution deductions. By being strategic and keeping thorough documentation, you can take advantage of the tax benefits that come with your generosity and willingness to volunteer.

Bear in mind that tax rules are subject to change, so it’s worthwhile to stay updated on current deduction limits, rates, and legal requirements. Resources such as USA.gov’s Donating to Charity page can also provide valuable information to further your understanding of the financial aspects of charitable giving.

Learn More About Deductions

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I deduct mileage driven for volunteering?

Yes, you can deduct mileage driven for charitable purposes as long as you meet the requirements set by the IRS. Make sure to keep accurate records and follow the guidelines for claiming the deduction.

2. How much is the standard mileage rate for charitable mileage?

For 2021, the standard mileage rate for charitable mileage is 14 cents per mile. This rate is determined by Congress and remains the same each year.

3. What organizations qualify for the charitable mileage deduction?

To claim the charitable mileage deduction, you must volunteer for a qualified organization as defined by the IRS. These organizations typically include religious institutions, nonprofit schools and hospitals, and public parks and recreation facilities.

In addition to mileage, you may be able to deduct other expenses such as tolls and parking fees. If you choose not to use the standard mileage rate, you can deduct the actual costs of gas and oil associated with your charitable work, but you must maintain detailed records.

5. What documentation do I need to claim the charitable mileage deduction?

To claim the deduction, you should keep a log or diary of your charity-related trips, including dates and purposes. It’s also important to keep receipts for tolls, parking fees, and any other relevant expenses.

6. Can I deduct mileage if I am reimbursed for my expenses?

No, you can only deduct the unreimbursed expenses incurred in the service of a charitable organization. If you have been reimbursed for any expenses, those amounts cannot be claimed as deductions.

7. Do I need to itemize my deductions to claim the charitable mileage deduction?

Yes, to claim the charitable mileage deduction, you must itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040). Your total itemized deductions should exceed the standard deduction for your filing status to make itemizing worthwhile.

8. How can I stay updated on tax rules and requirements for charitable deductions?

Tax rules and requirements can change, so it’s important to stay updated. Consult with a tax professional or refer to the IRS’s guide to charitable contribution deductions for the most current information. Additionally, resources such as USA.gov‘s Donating to Charity page can provide valuable information on the financial aspects of charitable giving.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.