By Julia T. Hsu
A mission trip is a significant expense, and when tax time rolls around many of HOI’s Honduras and Nicaragua mission trip volunteers ask a common question: “Can I get a tax deduction for the airfare, lodging, meals, supplies, local transportation, and parking fee for my mission trip? I’ve driven my own car to go to trip meetings and the airport; can I deduct the mileage?”
Based on my research, the correct answer is maybe. Unreimbursed or out of pocket contributions to a qualified charity are allowable deductions under IRS code section 170. HOI, Inc. is a qualified charity and maintains a current 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.
The cost of your mission trip, which consists of unreimbursed volunteer expenses and mileage you have incurred, should be tax deductible as long as they are substantiated However, the value of your time and services is never deductible as a charitable deduction. In the case of an IRS audit, make sure to keep all expense receipts and a mileage log sheet. If you plan to write off your Honduras or Nicaragua mission trip fee, please contact HOI to request an acknowledgement letter stating the date, place, and purpose of your volunteer work.
For more information, see the IRS’ Tips for Taxpayers Who Travel for Charity Work, IRS Publication 526 (Charitable Contributions).
DISCLAIMER: The above narrative is not and should not be considered tax advice given by HOI or its Board of Directors. You should consult your tax advisor prior to implementing any tax saving strategy related to charitable contributions.
Julia T. Hsu, EA, M.Ed. is an Enrolled Agent licensed with the IRS. She has served as HOI’s accountant since 2005. You can find her online at her website.