Re: Contributions to BSA Units - Tax Deductiblity
Steven P. Elwart (selwart@NETDOOR.COM)
Thu, 27 Nov 1997 09:04:10 -0600
Here is an article I got a few years ago written from as Scouter and IRS
Taxes and Scouting
This paper describes what Scouting expenses it is believed can and cannot
be deducted for tax purposes. These expenses can be deducted under
Charitable Contributions on Schedule A, Form 1040.
The miles driven for Scout events (Troop / Pack meetings, committee
meetings, campouts, service projects, training sessions etc.) can be
deducted. Trips for obtaining materials, food, etc., for Scouting events
are also deductible.
The rate for 1994 is 12 cents per mile. Records should show date, mileage,
and activity. If your actual expenses are more than 12 cents per mile, you
may deduct the actual amount. Your records must show the actual amount
You may also deduct parking fees and tolls paid for a Scout event.
Travel expenses for long trips may be deducted if you are a leader
supervising youth in a genuine and substantial sense. This includes costs
for train fare, bus fare, air fare, taxi fare, rental cars, etc.
The IRS rules say that such costs can be deducted as long as "there is no
significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in such
The rules do not define what is a significant element; however, their
examples lead you to believe that you must be on duty at least half the
If you are one of the two adult leaders required by BSA rules for a
Scouting event, you are on duty for the entire event. If there are more
than eight Scouts, the additional leaders required by BSA policy are
covered. If you are not one of the required leaders but still perform as a
leader for the majority of the time of an event, you are also covered.
If you simply attend an event as an observer, or as a non-required adult,
and do not have a significant part in organization, program, or
responsibility for the event, your costs are not deductible.
Costs for meals are deductible if in connection with a trip away from home.
This includes the cost of food for campouts, restaurant meals, snacks, etc.
Pancake Breakfasts, etc.
The cost for pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, and other such fund
raisers can only be deducted if you purchase a ticket as a donation and do
not attend. If you attend, and the cost is more than what a similar meal
would cost elsewhere, you can deduct the difference; otherwise, you cannot
Banquets, Dinners, etc.
The cost for recognition banquets, dinners, etc. are, in general, not
deductible. However, if the event is for fund raising, the amount you pay
above the normal cost for the meal is deductible. Also, if a set
percentage of the cost is to be allocated to a general fund to support
Scouting, or is allocated for other costs that are deductible, this
percentage is deductible.
It is not unusual for a council to have a policy that a 10 to 15 percent
surcharge, that supports the general Scouting movement, be included in the
cost of events.
Ceremonies and Courts of Honor
The costs of items provided for ceremonies recognizing Scouts and Scouters,
such as Courts of Honor, is deductible. This includes awards,
decorations, candles, and other such items.
The cost of motel rooms, camping fees, and other accommodation fees for
trips away from home are deductible.
Leaders fees for summer camp, camporees, jamborees, conclaves, Philmont,
Sea Base, Scout conferences, etc. are deductible.
Fees for admission to parks, museums, art galleries, exhibitions, and other
similar cultural / educational activities that are visited as part of a
Scouting event are deductible.
Costs for athletic events, movies, and other forms of entertainment are not
Tips for Service
Tips given to waiters, guides, porters, bus drivers, bellboys, maids, and
other service personnel while on a Scout trip are deductible.
If you are an officially designated leader for an international Scout trip,
the costs for required travel documents, immunizations, entry fees, exit
fees, and other similar ancillary costs associated with the trip, are
The cost for phone calls, postage, printing, envelopes, and other
communications expenses directly related to Scouting are deductible.
Costs for required services directly related to a Scout activity are
deductible; for example, the cost for towing a broken-down vehicle while
providing transportation for a Scouting event.
The costs for repairs and general maintenance for your own vehicle is not
Fees for showers, pool use, docking, and other such facilities are
deductible if they are paid as part of a Scout event.
The cost of materials used in Scout activities (wood, rope, leather, fuel,
etc.) is deductible, as is the transportation needed to purchase such
First Aid Supplies
The cost for First Aid supplies bought in preparation for a Scout trip is
The cost for medical services and supplies for an injury that occurs on a
Scout trip is not deductible under Charitable Contributions. This would go
under normal medical expenses.
Equipment that is required for a Scouting activity, and purchased
exclusively for use on this activity, is deductible. For example, a water
filter for a trip to the Boundary Waters, or Isle Royale; where without
one, the health and well being of the group would be in danger.
Required equipment does not include normally used equipment such as skies
(for a ski trip), boots (for hiking), etc. Such equipment is not
The cost for photographs, slides, video film, and audio tapes that are used
for the publicity and documentation of Scouting events is deductible. This
includes material bought for showing at Scout meetings, poster displays,
newspaper articles, etc.
The cost for these same items is not deductible if bought for your personal
use or enjoyment.
The costs for uniforms, patches, hats, insignia, neckerchiefs, name tags,
and other uniform parts are fully deductible. The cost of upkeep, e.g.,
washing, dry cleaning, etc. is also deductible.
The costs for uniforms, patches, pins, insignia, etc. that are bought for
collection or trading is not deductible. However, if such items are later
donated to the Scout museum or similar non-profit group, their cost/value
may be deducted at that time.
Patches and other Scouting memorabilia that you purchase, and which are
sold as fund raisers for Scouting activities are deductible to the extent
that the cost exceeds the value of the item purchased.
Instructional materials (books, charts, maps, etc.) purchased for use in
the education of Scouts is deductible.
Fees for instructional courses taken to better qualify you as a Scout
leader, or to prepare you for activities that will be done in your Scour
unit are deductible. Examples include lifesaving, CPR, kayaking, rock
Background materials purchased for and used in instruction and preparation
for a Scout activity (e.g., books on the ecology of the Florida Keys in
preparation for a trip to the Florida Sea Base, or language books and tapes
for a Scouting trip to Costa Rica).
Partially Reimbursed Expenses
If you are partially reimbursed for expenses you incur as a Scout leader,
you may deduct the difference between your cost and the amount you are
reimbursed. If you receive more than the actual cost, this is income.
Expenses for Scouts that are family members are not deductible.
Expenses for Scouts that are not family members are deductible if this is,
in effect, a general donation to cover expenses for Scouts who would not
otherwise be able to participate fully in the event. Expenses for other
adults are not deductible.
Purchases for Fund-Raising Events
If you purchase goods that are sold as a fund-raising event, you may only
deduct the difference between what you paid for the item and its fair
market value. For example, if you purchase a candy bar for $1.00 and it is
normally sold in stores for 50", you may deduct 50" as a donation.
Donation of Property
Property, stocks, and other similar items donated to a Scout organization
can be deducted at their fair market value.
Donation of Food
Donations of food for a Scout sponsored food drive can be deducted for what
the food costs at a grocery store. If you make a special trip to purchase
the food, the mileage for this trip is also deducted.
A reliable written record is required for IRS purposes. To be reliable,
the record must have been made at or near the time of the activity; or, you
must have other proof of your participation in the activity. A marked up
calendar with places, mileage, etc. would suffice, but a more organized
record would be better.
The information provided here is believed to be correct and accurate at the
time this paper was prepared. However, tax laws and the publications
describing them are often vague or incomplete. Because of this, they are
open to different interpretations by different people. It is not unusual
to receive several different answers to a single tax question if the answer
is not explicitly spelled out in the law or supporting publications.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City