Tax Deductions for Popcorn and other Scouting related items – 2015

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cutting_taxes_8732As we come to the time of year when most people do their taxes, it is important all Scout leaders understand all of the tax deductions available for popcorn sales and other Scouting related functions. Because every family is different when it comes to taxes, please consult your tax advisor before taking these deductions on your taxes.

The vast majority of Scouting expenses can be deducted under Charitable Contributions on Schedule A, Form 1040. For those who do not know Schedule A on Form 1040 is the place for itemized deductions. As always it is important to keep accurate records of all your Scouting activities in order to take these deductions.

The deductible expenses are those in the performance of a Scout leadership position. However, the leadership position does not have to be formal in nature. Being the Popcorn Kernel is an example of this type of position. Another example is if the Scoutmaster and Scouts are going on an overnight camping trip and you are the ‘second adult’ to fulfill Youth Protection Guidelines. In this instance you are in a Scout leadership role and potential tax deductions apply. I still recommend registering at minimum as a committee member of your Unit and take the required Youth Protection Training so as to avoid any confusion.

Remember, if you are reimbursed by your Unit for any of these items below related to a Scouting activity, you can no longer claim the deduction.

Below are the most common deduction which can be applied under ‘Charitable Contributions’:

Mileage

For 2014 and 2015, the mileage rate is 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations. The question is what is ‘driven in service’ mean? This is any mileage driven under the position of a Scout leader. For example, if you are driving your son to a Scout meeting to drop them off, the mileage would not count. However, if you are the Popcorn Kernel and are making a presentation, picking up order forms, or collecting money, the mileage would be deductible. Examples of trips include, but are not limited to, driving to training for popcorn sales, Show and Sell locations, popcorn pick up, popcorn return, Unit meetings, campouts, camp, service projects and Roundtable. Understand, mileage to deliver take order popcorn for your son would not be deductible.

In addition, you may deduct parking fees and tolls to and from Scouting events in addition to the mileage rate.

Uniforms

The Scout Leader’s costs for uniforms, patches, hats, insignia, neckerchiefs, name tags, and other uniform parts are fully deducible provided that they are not of general utility or wear. The cost of upkeep like washing or dry cleaning is also deductible. Your son’s uniform is not deductible.

Supplies

The cost of materials used in Scout activities (popcorn signs, wood, rope, leather, fuel, water filter elements, first aid supplies, etc.) is deductible, as is the transportation needed to purchase such items.

Instruction

Scout leaders can deduct the cost of training courses. Examples of instruction courses include Cub Scout Leader Training, Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation (BALOO), Boy Scout Basic Training, Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills, and Wood Badge. Supplies for these courses like books, maps, and online access fees are also deductible. Courses which go beyond those provided by the Boy Scouts can also be deducted provided they increase your qualifications as a Scout leaders. Examples include CPR classes, Advanced First Aid, Lifesaving, kayaking training, rock climbing training, etc. These expenses are in addition to the mileage to and from training courses as mentioned earlier.

Meals

Reasonable costs for your meals are deductible if in connection with a Scout trip away from home. This includes the cost of food for campouts. For meals to be deductible, the trip must include an overnight stay away from home. Please note, unlike expenses for business meals, the cost for meals at Scouting events away from home are 100% deductible for leaders.

Event Fees

Leaders fees for summer camp, camporee, Jamboree, Order of the Arrow functions including NOAC or Conclave, Philmont, Scout conferences, basic leadership training, etc. are deductible.

Donation of Property and Cash

These two items can be difficult to understand. The main reason is most people do not realize to whom they are donating. Understand the Chartered Organization owns the Unit. Any donation to the Unit is actually a donation to the Chartered Organization. In addition, the donation must be for the benefit of the Unit as a whole and not to a specific individual in the Unit in order for it to qualify. If the value in question is over $250, there are specific reporting requirement that must be met. I order for you to take the deduction for Cash or Property, you must receive this documentation from the organization in which you are donating. For further information review IRS Publication 526.

Popcorn

The IRS defines it in this manner, “If you receive a benefit as a result of making a contribution to a qualified organization, you can deduct only the amount of your contribution that is more than the value of the benefit you receive” (IRS Publication 526). If you purchased popcorn from a Scout last year, you can deduct the amount above and beyond the actual value of the popcorn. For example, on a $10 purchased item you can deduct the “Return to Scouting” of 70% (or $7) on your taxes. Remember this $7 goes to the Council and/or Unit.

I hope this helps you in preparing your taxes this year. Once again, review this information with a qualified tax advisor before taking any tax deduction.

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9 Benefits of Setting Goals

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flag_at_summit_4930Most Units have just completed their re-charter paperwork and hopefully had a conversation with their Unit Commissioner to see what level they qualified toward the Journey to Excellence (JTE).  Now, one must understand Journey to Excellence is an evaluation of what a Unit did last year.  However, it can also be a place to start developing goals for the next year.

This is not a time to just have ‘reasonable’ goals, but to develop what a previous Scout Executive and mentor called. ‘BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).

Recently, I was a conference where the speaker, Jamie Felber, gave 9 benefits for having Big Goals.  Here are those reasons:

 

Benefits of Big Goals

1. Goals focus your energy. 

Rather than going through the motions of what has always been done, goals provide a new direction with which to go.  In most people, this revitalizes the reason for participating and sends them with energy towards the new goal.

 

2. Goals activate your emotions.
It is said one person with passion is worth more than 100 with just a reason to achieve something.  BHAGS normally are something which has never been done before.  It brings both the doubts and excitement of actually accomplishing this new goal.

 

3. Goals make work more fun and help you get better at what you love to do
People like the since of accomplishment.  When breaking down big goals into smaller parts it does not seem so overwhelming.  When goals are accomplished, it bring more joy to what you are doing.

 

4. Goals give you a reason to celebrate
Accomplishing a goal is always a reason to celebrate.  People do not celebrate enough.  Reaching a milestone for yourself or a group is a perfect reason to reward yourselves.  The important part is to recognize those as soon as possible after reaching the goal.

 

5. Goals force you to ask how
There is a mind shift when a goal is written down.  People change from asking if something can be done and instead asking how it can be done.  The doubt tends to go away.

 

6. Goals get you living in the present not he past
New goals give you a way to start anew.  It gives you a point from which to go forward.  It does not matter what happened in the past.  Today we start over and go from here.

 

7. Goals provide the “Yes” that allows you the say “No”
With a specific BHAG at the forefront of your day, other assignment do not seem as important.  Always ask yourself if this new assignment, project or task helps you accomplish the BHAG.  If it does not, it gives you the opportunity to say ‘No”.

 

8. Goals get you up in the morning
Internal motivation is better than external motivation (paycheck, threat of being fired, etc.). Internalizing the BHAG gives you the focus, energy and drive to get it done.

 

9. Goals give birth to bigger goals 
When people accomplish the BHAG the glass ceiling is broken.  Now they know the goal can be accomplished and it breeds life to new goals.  These should not be just ‘an increase over last year’ but a new and different BHAG to complete.

 

These reasons for having Big Goals not only apply to popcorn but to everyday life.  If you want to strive for something either personally or at work, these same principles should give you the motivation to move forward. Please let me know what the BHAG is for you Unit. It does not have to be about popcorn but can be regarding anything your Unit does.  Look over the JTE as a place to start, but endeavor for more.

 

Good luck and strive for the BHAG.

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