Missionary services are considered charitable services in most cases. The Internal Revenue allows deductions for missionary work overseas, but the deductions must meet the specific guidelines. As long as the deductions you have for your missionary work can’t be considered expenses related to a vacation or for personal enjoyment, you can claim some specific expenses on your Form 1040.
Travel expenses for out-of-pocket car rental or other transportation and airfare can be deducted as an expense only if you can prove that you were overseas for missionary work and not for a vacation. The airfare is deductible for round-trip. Car rental and insurance paid is a qualifying expense. Meals are a qualifying expense as long as you can prove that you were overseas on missionary work and not for pleasure. Lodging is also an expense, but if you share a room with someone, you must split the cost in half.
Before you can file Form 1040 with expenses incurred overseas as a missionary, you must have documentation from the sponsoring organization that describes the type of work that you did overseas. The documentation must state whether the organization reimbursed you for any expenses either with money or tangible goods. This Donee Acknowledgment is found on Form 8283.
Besides the acknowledgment, you need complete and accurate records detailing all of your qualifying expenses. If you have receipts, you must keep the receipts with your tax returns for up to seven years. In some cases, overseas missionaries may not have receipts for food or other things that are considered qualifying expenses, so it is important to detail the date, time, location and amount spent on paper and if possible, have the seller sign it. If you absolutely cannot obtain a receipt, you must write down the cost, what it was for, the name of the location, address and date. Keep this information with your other financial records.
Filing Form 1040
You can deduct your expenses for overseas missionary work only if you itemize your deductions on Schedule A. If you take the standard deduction, you cannot deduct these expenses at all. If you do itemize, and if the expenses are over $500, you will also need to file Form 8283 Non-Cash Charitable Contributions.