Volunteering and the I.R.S.
There are two very good reasons that docents and other volunteers working in the United States should keep careful records of the hours they contribute to a not-for-profit institution. For the benefit of the institution, of course, such records are useful in proving in-kind donations when applying for grant funds. Volunteers who itemize their income tax deductions can also use such records to their financial benefit.
Most people are aware they can deduct contributions of money or property they make to, or for the use of, qualified organizations such as museums. Membership fees or dues may also be deducted. However, in both cases, you can deduct only the amount that is more than the value of any benefits you may receive. Some out-of-pocket expenses may also be deductible, if they are unreimbursed, directly connected with the services you give the institution, expenses you had only because of the services you gave, and not personal, living, or family expenses. If, for example, you are the chosen representative attending the National Decent Symposium or other such convention, you can deduct unreimbursed expenses for travel and transportation, including a reasonable amount for meals and lodging.
If you are required to wear a uniform as part of your docent duties, you can deduct the cost and keep of the uniform. You can deduct unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of gas and oil, that are directly related to the use of your automobile while serving as a docent. If you do not want to deduct actual expenses, you can use a standard rate of 12 cents per mile to figure your contribution. You can deduct parking fees and tolls, but for these and all other deductions, reliable written records are required.
As with all tax questions, you should consult a tax expert for information about your specific tax requirements. Personal assistance is also available by calling the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 during regular business hours. If you have access to TTY/TDD equipment, you can call 1-800-829-4059. While this information may be too late for April 15, 2000, do begin to document expenses and keep your receipts for April 15, 2001.
“For Your Consideration,” The Docent Educator 9.3 (Spring 2000): 19.