When Baden-Powell said “Be Prepared,” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about income tax returns.
But still, there’s no better advice than that two-word phrase during tax time.
Scouters who heeded the Scout Motto last year remembered to track and document their Boy Scouts of America-related expenses. And now, they know that they can include those expenses if they plan to itemize their deductions.
But what if you didn’t know that BSA expenses were deductible? Or what if your “filing system” is really your glove compartment that’s stuffed with gas receipts and crumpled-up napkins? And what qualifies as an eligible expense, anyway?
Your fellow Scouters and I are here to help. Along with other Scout leaders on Facebook, I’ve collected some tips to help you track and deduct your BSA-related expenses.
And with the April 15, 2019, deadline approaching fast, there’s no better time than now to get started.
General facts you need to know Further clarification for this section comes from the Taxwise Giving newsletter (November 2016 edition).
Some items that you purchase to benefit your unit can be deducted, provided your unit didn’t reimburse you for them. You’ll want to check with your tax professional to be sure, but Scouters have told me they deduct merit badge pamphlets, den meeting activity kits, Wood Badge course fees and much more — again, as long as their pack or troop didn’t reimburse them.
However, there’s one expense that I’m certain you can deduct: the cost of driving to and from BSA events.
How to include driving expenses Here’s what the IRS says about mileage:
This is where it gets tricky. You can’t deduct travel expenses if there’s a “significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation.” But enjoying your volunteer time doesn’t rule out a deduction.
For example, if you’re an on-duty troop leader who takes Scouts on a BSA camping trip, you may deduct those travel expenses even if you had a good time.
Important caveats Next, there’s the tricky part of “gifts from which you receive benefit.” Let’s say, for example, that you attend your council’s annual dinner. Can you deduct that expense? Sort of.
Here’s what the IRS says: “If you made a gift and received a benefit in return, such as food, entertainment, or merchandise, you can generally only deduct the amount that is more than the value of the benefit.”
So if tickets for the council dinner were $75 and the value of the dinner was $35, you can only deduct $40.
Or if you paid $110 for a $100 gift card at a silent auction, you can only deduct $10.
Also, you’ll want to consult a tax professional or the IRS site for individual gifts of $250 or more. There are special rules that apply to those larger gifts.
How to deduct gifts of more than $250 Here’s what Carr says:
If the leader is deducting more than $250 in a single charitable contribution, he or she should maintain a record of these expenses (credit card receipts for travel, copy of a cancelled check for cash donations), as well a letter from the charitable organization showing:
For tax year 2018, the threshold for itemizing (filling out the Schedule A) increased from $12,700 for a married-filing-jointly (MFJ) return to $24,000 for an MFJ return.
As a result, a lot of the detailed tracking Scout leaders may have done in the past for charitable givings will no longer be necessary in 2018.
Unless charitable givings, mortgage interest, and state and local tax deductions are greater than $24,000 (MFJ) or $12,000 (single), a Scout leader won’t be itemizing, and as a result the charitable donation won’t be deductible.
Ten tips for keeping track of it all Here are 10 tips your fellow Scouters offered:
Oh, and good luck!