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Tax Deductions for Outdoor Non-Profit Volunteers

Appalachian Mountain Club Day Hike in the Middlesex Fells
Appalachian Mountain Club Day Hike in the Middlesex Fells

I do a lot of volunteer work for non-profit outdoor organizations including the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, on the average of  of 10-15 hours a week. This includes leading hiking and backpacking trips, writing grant proposals, teaching courses, and attending various committee meetings and conference calls.

I enjoy it immensely but I also spend a significant portion of my monthly income on volunteer-related expenses. So I was gratified to learn that I can deduct many of these expenses from my federal income tax.

For example, did you know that you can deduct the cost of oil and gas or $0.14 per mile for driving expenses to hikes or camping trips you lead for charitable organizations, as well as certain out of pocket expenses?

For full legal details see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

Trip Leader Transportation Deduction

For example:

“You are a troop leader for a tax-exempt youth group and you help take the group on a camping trip. You are responsible for overseeing the setup of the camp and for providing adult supervision for other activities during the entire trip. You participate in the activities of the group and really enjoy your time with them. You oversee the breaking of camp and you help transport the group home. You can deduct your travel expenses.”

Under IRS Regulations, 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 and even if you enjoy yourself. However, if you have only nominal duties, or if for significant parts of the trip you do not have any duties, you cannot deduct your travel expenses.

How this adds up

Based on a quick and hasty scan of my records – this is where trips reports come in handy – I’ve driven over 4,000 miles this year to lead Appalachian Mountain Club hiking trips in the White Mountains. That comes to $560 dollars in federal tax deductions, and the year is not over yet.

That certainly helps offset the cost of my volunteer activities and might be something you want to look into too if you volunteer for a charitable organization.

Disclosure: I am not a trained accountant. Consult with a licensed tax preparer before taking charitable deductions when you file for federal or state income taxes. 



  1. Good info! I enjoy volunteering but a little extra cash for all those miles is a nice find!

  2. Make sure the organization in question has its 501(c)(3) determination letter from the IRS if you want your contributions/expenses incurred for the organization to be tax-deductible. And keep good records!

  3. Another benefit to leading trips for groups like the GMC and AMC.

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