Deductions for Church Mission Trips

A group from my congregation recently went to Kenya to help at a school. Each person was expected to pay $3000 for the trip. In return they received plane tickets, food and lodging. How much of that $3000 can be considered a charitable deduction?

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Feb 20, 2015
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Deductibility of Church Mission Trips
by: Lewis in NC

IRS Pub 525 (Charitable Contributions) states:

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 such 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 will not be denied simply because you enjoy providing services to the charitable organization.

If a donor makes a single contribution of $250 or more in paying short-term mission trip expenses, the donor must have and the charity should provide a written acknowledgment. The acknowledgment must include:

A description of the services provided by the donor (such as the purchase of an airline ticket for the trip);

A statement of whether or not the sponsoring organization provided the donor with any goods or services to reimburse the donor for the expenses incurred;

A description and a good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services (other than intangible religious benefits) provided to reimburse the donor, and

A statement of any intangible religious benefits provided to the donor

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