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Tax Q&A: Equipment for Charity

April 08, 1999|STEVEN J. CUPINGOOD, Los Angeles and For more information on taxes and to see other questions and answers in this series, go to The Times' Web site at http://www.latimes.com/taxes. To find a CPA, visit the California Society of CPAs at http://www.calcpa.org.

This daily tax season column publishes questions from readers and answers from local members of the California Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Q Last year I joined a nonprofit volunteer search-and-rescue organization that required me to purchase specific equipment and supplies. Can I deduct any of these costs? I'm assuming I can't deduct the value of my time.

A You are correct that you cannot deduct time donated to a charitable organization. If you itemize your deductions, however, you can deduct certain unreimbursed expenses as charitable contributions on Schedule A of Form 1040 if the expenditure's primary purpose was to further the charitable organization's goals. For example, you can deduct the cost of a uniform that is required in performing donated services and that does not have a general use. (A regular coat and tie would not be considered a uniform, even if it's not something you generally wear.) Costs of accessories such as skis for a ski patrol or rappelling equipment for search and rescue would not be deductible unless the accessories are donated to the charitable organization. Travel expenses, including meals and lodging while away from home, may be deductible as long as there is no significant element of personal recreation or vacation in the travel. Mileage as a charitable donation is deductible at 14 cents per mile.

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