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Remember You're Free to Deduct Pro Bono Expenses

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Many lawyers donate to charity. When that's not fiscally possible, some may donate the value of their services to help clients in need. But remember: the value of your pro bono work is not tax deductible.

You can't jot down on your tax return that you spent $450 for one hour of "advising indigent clients" in order to reduce your taxable income.

But there are tax considerations for pro bono legal services that you should know about.

Travel expenses can be deductible.

First of all, you can deduct certain expenses related to your pro bono work. This is only true for those expenses that were incurred primarily to benefit the charity and not yourself.

For example, you can likely deduct traveling expenses. The items you can deduct can include transportation costs. It can also include hotel and lodging if it was necessary. But you cannot deduct these expenses if the primary reason for the trip was that you wanted to "get away" for the weekend.

Property expenses generally are not deductible.

You generally can't deduct expenses incurred to purchase property -- even if said property assists you in your pro bono activities. This means you can't deduct the cost of your laptop, or your new printer.

But you can deduct certain things. You can deduct expenses if they are necessary to provide pro bono services. For example: the costs associated with fixing a copier or printer may be deductible.

Attorneys may want to consult with a tax professional when figuring out what they can deduct in relation to their pro bono clients. Or, if there are other deductions they may take with regards to charitable contributions. It's never a good idea to procrastinate when it comes to taxes.

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