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Honoring 9/11 heroes by volunteering on Patriot Day

Sept 11 9-11 Day Americorps photo collage
Source: AmeriCorps

Tomorrow, Sept. 11, is Patriot Day.

It's not an official, formal federal holiday. But it was declared, by a joint resolution of Congress in 2009, as the day each year for remembering those who died or were injured during the terrorist attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001.

On the annual National Day of Service and Remembrance on Monday, Americans across the country will follow the urging of President Joe Biden's in his proclamation to participate in community service in honor of those our nation lost.

You can find opportunities to volunteer in your community at AmeriCorps' 9/11 Day web page. Just enter your Zip Code, and the search tool takes you to another page where you can then filter by, for example, the cause or your skills, to find opportunities to help others on @911Day.


Volunteering took a pandemic hit: The latest Current Population Survey Civic Engagement and Volunteering Supplement, conducted every two years by AmeriCorps and the U.S. Census Bureau, showed a 7 percentage point drop of people volunteering through nonprofit organizations.

That decline in so-called formal volunteering is not surprising, though, since it was conducted from September 2020 through September 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, over that coronavirus-affected time frame, an estimated 23.2 percent of Americans —more than 60.7 million people — gave their time with organizations to help others in 2020 and 2021.

These volunteers served an estimated 4.1 billion hours, which accounted for an economic value of $122.9 billion. That's based on the estimated average value of a volunteer hour.

Kudos, but no volunteering tax break: While people generally volunteer simply because they want to help, putting a dollar sign on volunteer time raises a common question. Can I deduct the value of my time and/or skills when I volunteer for a charitable organization?

The short answer is no. Donated hours aren't tax deductible.

Still, Uncle Sam believes volunteers should get some tax benefits. The Internal Revenue Code lets you deduct the value of in-kind donations you make as a volunteer.

This includes things such as the office supplies you bought when you spent the day helping organize your favorite nonprofit's administrative and operational systems.

There also are the miles you drive your own car in volunteer service to a charity, like delivering meals to shut-ins or taking the community center's job training folks to interviews.

While many tax-deductible miles are adjusted annually for inflation, the amount for charitable driving is statutorily set and static at 14 cents. Yes, I agree, it's not fair. Tell your Representative and Senators (there's a link at the end of the right column) you want them to change this.

Finally, remember to follow the usual IRS rules for donating to ensure that you can claim these volunteer-related contributions as itemized deductions on Schedule A.

Then you can take the tax dollars you save in deductions for gifts in recognition of 9/11 Day (which also is this weekend's By the Numbers figure) and keep the goodwill going by giving that money back to the charity of your choice.


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