Taxpayer asks:

Hi! Thank you for your time.

My husband and I are volunteering at a charity event for a few days, and we have to have a babysitter. She’s babysitting at no cost to us (she’s family), but can she deduct any of her babysitting expenses? Would it be charitable giving on her part? Thank you!

Taxgirl says:

Unfortunately, no. You cannot claim the value of your time as a charitable deduction on your federal income tax return even if you’re volunteering directly for a charity. This is true even if you can value your time (for example, $10/hour for babysitting or $60/hour for house painting). 

You can typically deduct associated expenses, like mileage, for volunteering with a qualified charitable organization; in this case, however, your babysitter is doing this as a favor for you (which is super nice) and not as a direct benefit to the charity. Those expenses would not be deductible. 

(On the plus side, your babysitter is not missing out on much. Congress hasn’t changed the charitable mileage deduction since the Clinton era, and it remains just 14 cents per mile.)

Before you go: be sure to read my disclaimer. Remember, I’m a lawyer and we love disclaimers.
If you have a question, here’s how to Ask The Taxgirl.

Taxpayer asks:

Reading about you connected me to this site. I had a small question.

That is can I double my deductions on my 2019 taxes being that last year I took the standard deduction. Such as House taxes, mortgage, charitable donations. 

Thank You

Taxgirl says:

I’m glad that you found the site!

Under the Taxpayer Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), more taxpayers are claiming the standard deduction. The changes typically benefit taxpayers who might have some itemized deductions (like home mortgage interest) but not so much that they exceed the new standard deduction amounts. The amounts are pretty generous with the standard deduction amount for married couples starting at $24,400 in 2019 (higher standard deductions may be available for those over age 65 and/or blind). You can find the numbers for 2019 here and for 2020 here.

If the numbers work out for you to claim the standard deduction in 2019, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work out the same for 2020. Circumstances change. And it’s absolutely the case that you can opt to claim the standard deduction in one year and itemized deductions in another. 

It sounds as though you are asking whether if you claim the standard deduction in one year – and therefore have unused itemized deductions in that year – you can simply roll those deductions into the next year. The answer is no. The rules regarding deductibility remain the same as always: you’re entitled to the deduction in the year the expense is paid. So, if you pay home mortgage interest in 2019, you can only claim that expense in 2019. If you claim the standard deduction for that year, then your deduction for home mortgage interest is “lost” (I used quotes here because you’re still benefiting from the higher standard deduction that year).

But this does lend itself to some planning ideas. If you expect that you might have higher expenses in one year – say, you have a significant medical procedure coming up in 2020 – you can adjust the timing of your other costs. So instead of writing that check to charity in 2019, consider doubling up in 2020. That’s called “bundling” – the idea that you can bundle expenses in one year to produce a higher itemized deduction total. It’s totally legitimate planning, but again, it only works if you pay the expenses in the year that you intend to claim the deduction.

Before you go: be sure to read my disclaimer. Remember, I’m a lawyer and we love disclaimers.
If you have a question, here’s how to Ask The Taxgirl.