Tax Hacks 2015: Don’t Overlook These 8 Deductions and Credits

1. Charitable donations, including travel expenses

Continuing Promise 2011

If you itemize deductions, you surely already know you can deduct your charitable contributions. This includes both cash contributions and goods donated to a charity.

What you might miss is that you can also deduct your travel expenses when you’re volunteering for a charity. For example, if you drive to a soup kitchen every week, you can deduct either your actual expenses or use a standard 14 cent per mile deduction.

The IRS reports these travel expenses may be deductible:

  • Air, rail and bus fares
  • Out-of-pocket expenses for a car
  • Taxi fares
  • Lodging
  • Meals

However, the government makes it clear you can’t mix volunteerism with vacations and expect to get a deduction. Here’s what the IRS says on Page 5 of Publication 526:

Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses necessarily incurred while you are away from home performing services for a charitable organization only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. … The deduction for travel expenses will not be denied simply because you enjoy providing services to the charitable organization. Even if you enjoy the trip, you can take a charitable contribution deduction for your travel expenses if you are on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip.

In other words, you can’t write off a mission trip to the Caribbean if all you’re doing is dropping off supplies and sightseeing the rest of the time.

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