As we come upon the infamous April 15th deadline, 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’:
For 2013 and 2014, 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.
The Scout Leader’s costs for uniforms, patches, hats, insignia, neckerchiefs, name tags, and other uniform parts are fully deductible 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.
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.
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, 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 better qualify you as a Scout leaders. Examples include CPR classes, Advanced First Aid, Lifesaving, kayaking, rock climbing, etc. These expenses are in addition to the mileage to and from training courses as mentioned earlier.
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 that, unlike expenses for business meals, the cost for meals at Scouting events away from home are 100% deductible for leaders.
Leaders fees for summer camp, camporees, jamborees, Order of the Arrow functions, Philmont, Scout conferences, basic leadership training, etc. are deductible.
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 and 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. For further information review IRS Publication 526.
One final note. 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.
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.
As Webelos go into Boy Scouts, it is important to set the expectations, both time and money, with parents from the start. Here are a list of items you should share with incoming families into Boy Scouts.
1. Unit Calendar
Boys want to know what activities they are going to do throughout the year. Additionally adults want to know what their boys are doing so they can merge their Boy Scout activities with all the other items the family is doing during the year. This should include the dates of summer camp and all camp outs. I know for myself with my job, I need to know at least three months in advance if I want to join my son on a particular campout.
In addition, research shows new Boy Scouts that have an activity outside their normal troop meeting, like a campout, are three times more likely to remain in Boy Scouts through the end of the year. Make sure you have one of these activities and invite the adults along. Remember, these parents just came from a program where parents had to be at everything. They need to see that their sons are taken care of and do not need to be at all of the Troop events.
2. Unit Budget
Parents want to know the expenses they will incur by joining your Unit. They also want to know what the money is going towards. Remember to include camp when stating the amount needed when their Scout joins. Not including camps give a false representation of the actual cost of Boy Scouts. Do not be scared to show the whole amount. Nationwide, the average cost of a youth in Boy Scouts is $525 per year. This would include registration, camp, uniforms, patches, campouts and other camping equipment. Understand that parents are used to learning the whole amount up front when they sign their son up for little league football, baseball or soccer. Our Unit also includes a mention about Friends of Scouting so this is not a surprise in the future.
At the same time you give adults the Unit Budget, you should provide parents with all the methods your Unit uses to raise money. This should include the time commitment and monetary goals for each fundraiser. In addition, the expectations for parent involvement in these fundraisers need to be communicated. Show how the fundraisers help the Scout and the family with personal growth and how these can help toward earning merit badges like Personal Management and Salesmanship.
4. Gear List
Depending on the outdoor emphasis and current equipment of the Boy Scout Unit, different personal gear may be needed to participate in certain activities. This should include the Ten Essentials for every outing. There may be additional items based on your location. As an example I live near Seattle, home of the Super Bowl XLVIII Champion Seattle Seahawks, so rain gear is required for every campout.
Remember, in order to retain Webelos joining Boy Scout Units, it is necessary to share all information about the Troop and set the expectations for both the youth and adults regarding fundraisers and participation. Do not be shy about the money. Not only are there ways to pay for Scouting inside the Unit, many Councils have designated funds to help assist families so their Scout can have the full Scouting experience.