Many people like to give back not only to their own community, but to volunteer where they are most needed. They are involved in charity work such as disaster relief and mission trips that carry them far from home, often into less than comfortable surroundings. More often than not, the cost of transportation, lodging and meals are unreimbursed out of pocket expenses.
The IRS recognizes these costs as deductible contributions as long as the services rendered are associated with a charitable organization and are directly related to providing substantial volunteer services such as distributing food, water and other necessary relief after a hurricane or helping to build houses for people in need. You can take a charitable contribution deduction for your travel and lodging, and 50% of your meals if you itemize deductions on your tax return so long as the volunteer work was connected with an organized charity or church.
If you are the less adventurous sort, but you contribute other items to the charity of your choice, such as long distance phone calls, copying charges and office supplies, you are also entitled to a charitable contribution deduction. If you are a Scout leader, you can deduct the cost of your uniform, as well as any expense you incur for the benefit of your troop. If you are involved in animal rescue, you can deduct the out of pocket expense of caring for foster animals. If you use your car in any of these activities, you can deduct up to 14 cents per mile related to providing the services to the charitable organization. Be sure to track your mileage.