The debate has always been around, should volunteer vacations be tax deductible? Does the mere word ‘vacation’ being used in marketing take away from the level of service that volunteers do in country? Or is the deduction in fact a marketing tool?
Journey Etc wrote an article on this topic addressed at travelers, what do you think about it? Let’s start the debate again.
You probably know that business travelers can often deduct all or a portion of their travel, even if they are having some fun. But did you know that you can also get a tax benefit from your vacation? You can if you are willing to do a bit of work as a volunteer with a non-profit organization.
“Voluntourism” is becoming a popular option for travelers that want to make the most of their vacation. By volunteering with a non-profit organization a person can travel to almost any global destination, experience the culture of an area in a whole new way, and have a sense of purpose and of doing good with their vacation time. And then to top it off, some or all of their vacation expenses can be deducted on their income tax returns.
To get the tax deduction on your US Return you must volunteer with a US non-profit corporation. Habitat for Humanity is one organization that has volunteer opportunities both local and abroad. You could also contact an organization that specializes in voluntourism such as Cross Cultural Solutions in New York or Global Volunteers which is based out of Minnesota.
There are a number of factors that determine if you can deduct some or all of your travel expenses. In general the amount deductible will depend upon how much time you spend doing strictly volunteer activities, versus how much time you spend doing strictly vacation activities.
Whatever your skills or talents, there is a volunteer opportunity for you. You can help children and adults with their English. You can provide medical services, or you could help build a home. You can work, with children, seniors, teens and adults.
When working with a volunteer agency expect to pay your own airfare, plus a program fee that will generally include lodging and meals. Prepare to be flexible and open to new experiences. Do not expect classy hotels and fine dining. To save money volunteers are often housed with local families or budget hotels and eat the local food.
If you want a vacation with a purpose, one where you get to really know the local people and culture, and one that comes with a tax benefit, consider voluntourism. You’ll be glad you did!