School or parent group volunteers may be entitled to some tax breaks for their contributions; tax professionals recommend taking deductions only if the group is a registered 501(c)(3) charity.


March 2006

As a volunteer for a charitable organization (namely, your school or parent group), you may be entitled to some tax breaks for your contributions. Although you can't put a dollar value on the time you give or the services you perform, you can deduct some out-of-pocket expenses. Tax professionals recommend taking deductions only if your group is registered with the IRS as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code.

Karen Lydon, a partner at Raphael and Raphael LLP, a Boston accounting firm, says the deductions volunteers are allowed to take include:

  • Away-from-home travel, including airfare, taxi fare, lodging, and meals. (Expenses are not tax-deductible if there is a "significant element of personal pleasure" associated with the travel.)
  • Gas and oil costs from using your own car. In lieu of tracking these expenses, you can use the IRS' standard mileage rate deduction for charities. (See for rates.)
  • Tolls and parking fees.
  • Fees paid for training materials, conferences, and workshops that enhance your group's mission.

Keep detailed records of all expenses—receipts plus the date, time, place, amount, and charitable purpose. For deductions greater than $250, submit a statement of expenses (with receipts) to your group's treasurer, and arrange for her to acknowledge the amount in writing.

The overall amount a volunteer can deduct varies according to financial situation.


# Angi Lake 2008-04-13 15:51
This is something you should discuss in greater detail! I need more info on this but not sure where to find it. I am trying to get our group to vote yes to 501(c)(3), and Incorporating. This sounds like a good reason to add to my Pro's list. Also, this should be mentioned elswhere on PTOtoday's site when discussing the 501. 5 star vote from me
# Kathryn Lagden from PTO Today 2008-04-15 11:00
Hi Angi - glad you found the article helpful. Lots of info on our message boards about 501(c)(3) that you might find helpful. Check it out here - Do a search for "501(c)(3)" and you'll see all the discussion threads about this topic.
# Ginks 2008-04-26 15:19
Hi Angi,
501(c)(3)'s are considered difficult to do by many, but in reality, they are not difficult to do when you have a straight forward group like a PTO to apply for. I recommend getting a couple of go-getters to sit down and do it online step by step. Then, involve your Treasurer (if not one of the first to tackle it) and get the financial info placed in correctly. Any last questions and you can call the IRS directly. All info is easily found online through google and on the online 1023 form for applying (you can print this out). It is easiest if you have your EIN (employer identification number) ahead of time (also available online) and also you are incorporated through your state. (Most states have a center for nonprofits which will have specific info for you or your state's Attorney General who oversees nonprofits in addition to a lot of other business.) Good luck!
# Sally123 2015-04-03 16:13
Thats it? Just tolls, parking, and gas? What kind of rip off is that? No wonder know one volunteers for PTO anymore! It's not worth the time and effort.

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