In light of massive unemployment (and well before), nonprofits have been relying (now more and more) on "volunteers" to do the otherwise paid work of employees who have been laid off. Altruism aside, volunteers still may only deduct the cost of expenses incurred doing "volunteer" work, but the value of their skilled (or not) labor is not allowed.
I have started a petition to Congress Income Tax Deduction for Volunteer Work (cc the President), to change the Tax Code to allow a deduction from a person's income tax for a volunteer's donated work itself (hours spent or otherwise evaluated as if paid). This would be especially valuable to folks who are making just enough funds to itemize deductions by reducing their income tax burden.
Income Tax Deduction for Volunteer Work is a bail-out free stimulus for the economy!
A personal experience: I volunteered to be the volunteer coordinator for a NPO. I found out that the task was previously part of the job of a paid (and now laid-off) employee. The job was not going to carry any financial compensation. I needed the deduction for my hours worked as much as they needed the work done, yet by law I can only deduct the cost of my transportation to/fro. (I'm not even going to discuss what it felt like to be a "scab", in union terms.)
There are other significant implications to this measure.
Like child-rearing, home-making and house-keeping, volunteer work itself, no matter how/not skilled, is not figured into the Gross Domestic Product of the USA. The government says it is because it is not paid and can't evaluate it. Yet, Independent Sector noted in 2010 the estimated value of an hour of donated volunteer time went up to $21.36 from $20.85 in 2009.
This is not to diminish the value of being compassionate, rather to highlight its impact on the common weal. Whether or not it's an "oversight" left-over from the bygone era when such altruism was usually performed by "non-working" mothers, it's time for a change.
Volunteer labor-fueled NPOs boast how much money they save by using unpaid labor. It will cost them not a penny more if volunteer labor were to be compensated in this way.
Support a bail-out-free economic stimulus. Please sign the petition Income Tax Deduction for Volunteer Work and encourage others as well. It is especially important in this election year.
Petition address: http://www.change.org/petitions/income-tax-deduction-for-volunteeri...
Thank you for your consideration.
Lauren Deutsch email@example.com