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easmith44
New Member

My child did a service trip through church. Is the cost of the trip deductible?

 
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Accepted Solutions
bwa
Alumni
Alumni

My child did a service trip through church. Is the cost of the trip deductible?

If this is similar to a mission trip I would disagree with Opus.  It might be deductible if it was for you, but not for your child. Contributions to a Church to support a child's mission trip are not charitable contributions. See U.S. Supreme Court, Davis v. United States, 495 U.S. 472 (1990) (at http://supreme.justia.com/us/495/472/ ).

Also, from IRS Publication 526 on charitable contributions:

"You cannot deduct contributions to specific individuals, including the following. . . .

Expenses you paid for another person who provided services to a qualified organization. Example. Your child does missionary work. You pay his/her expenses. You cannot claim a deduction for your son's unreimbursed expenses related to his/her contribution of services."


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7 Replies
SweetieJean
Level 15

My child did a service trip through church. Is the cost of the trip deductible?

Who exactly paid for it?
bwa
Alumni
Alumni

My child did a service trip through church. Is the cost of the trip deductible?

If this is similar to a mission trip I would disagree with Opus.  It might be deductible if it was for you, but not for your child. Contributions to a Church to support a child's mission trip are not charitable contributions. See U.S. Supreme Court, Davis v. United States, 495 U.S. 472 (1990) (at http://supreme.justia.com/us/495/472/ ).

Also, from IRS Publication 526 on charitable contributions:

"You cannot deduct contributions to specific individuals, including the following. . . .

Expenses you paid for another person who provided services to a qualified organization. Example. Your child does missionary work. You pay his/her expenses. You cannot claim a deduction for your son's unreimbursed expenses related to his/her contribution of services."


Opus 17
Level 15

My child did a service trip through church. Is the cost of the trip deductible?

Interesting, and a bit bizarre.  

However, I disagree with your formulation "Contributions to a Church to support a child's mission trip are not charitable contributions".  The issue in Davis was that the church established the amount but the money was paid directly to the missionaries.  I would say that if the church solicits donations for a mission trip and the parent write the check to the church, which now means that the church has control over the money (and could, for example, cancel the trip and use the money for something else, or drop the parent's child for behavior reasons) then it is still a deductible donation to the church.  Paying the child's expenses seems to be non-deductible (again, bizarre) but I would argue that donating money to the church would still be deductible.

(It's an arms' length transaction. Similarly, if you give money to a poor family at christmas time, it is not deductible, but if the church board announces "we have identified a needy family, please put your donations into the drop box in the back" then it is deductible because it is a donation to the church rather than a person––as long as the church board decides who the beneficiary will be a not you the donor)
*Answers are correct to the best of my ability at the time of posting but do not constitute legal or tax advice.*
bwa
Alumni
Alumni

My child did a service trip through church. Is the cost of the trip deductible?

I believe your comment about the Church designating a family at Christmas time to be very much on point.  However, to apply that to this situation, the Church would need to designate the child.  Donating to the Church with the understanding that it is to be used for a specific child would seem to be insufficient to claim a deduction.

Perhaps OP will come back and clarify what he/she meant when they said ". . . through the church."
Opus 17
Level 15

My child did a service trip through church. Is the cost of the trip deductible?

Well, if the church has a general fundraiser for a youth group mission trip, should member A with no children get a deduction while member B who has a child in the youth group is denied?

As distinguished from "anyone who wants to go on the trip should write us a check for $575.32 to cover their expenses."
*Answers are correct to the best of my ability at the time of posting but do not constitute legal or tax advice.*
bwa
Alumni
Alumni

My child did a service trip through church. Is the cost of the trip deductible?

So long as neither Member A or Member B's contribution is contingent on any specific child going, I would give either the deduction.
Opus 17
Level 15

My child did a service trip through church. Is the cost of the trip deductible?

Yes, with qualifications.  The main purpose of the trip has to be charitable service.  Also, any costs for recreation or personal activities are not deductible.  

The IRS says: Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses nec­essarily incurred while you are away from home performing services for a charitable organization only if there is no significant element of per­sonal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. This applies whether you pay the expen­ses directly or indirectly. You are paying the ex­penses indirectly if you make a payment to the charitable organization and the organization pays for your travel expenses.

The deduction for travel expenses won't be denied simply because you enjoy providing services to the charitable organization. Even if you enjoy the trip, 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. However, if you have only nominal duties, or if for significant parts of the trip you don't have any duties, you can't de­ duct your travel expenses. 

*Answers are correct to the best of my ability at the time of posting but do not constitute legal or tax advice.*
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