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Volunteers look to Senate bill to help increase reimbursement

September 27, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Robert Shipley once drove 6,000 miles a year on behalf of the organizations for which he volunteers. He claims the mileage on his income tax return, but that doesn't help much, he said.

A bill introduced this week in the U.S. Senate would give the IRS discretion to raise the mileage deduction rate that Shipley and others like him would be able to claim on their returns.

Under current law, mileage rates for charitable activity are fixed under the Internal Revenue Code at 14 cents per mile, according to a news release from the office of Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md.

"Fourteen cents is nothing," said Hannah Cramer, deputy director of the Washington County Commission on Aging.

Cramer works with volunteers and helps clients with tax returns. She knows that a majority of her clients don't itemize tax deductions, so they can't take advantage of the volunteer mileage rate deduction. The Commission on Aging reimburses volunteers, paying 20 cents per mile up to $14 per month, Cramer said.

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"I think it's a wonderful piece of legislation, especially with the economy the way it is," said local Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Sherry Brown Cooper, whose volunteers not only go to job sites, but also pick up supplies and attend committee meetings.

"They rack up some mileage," she said.

Robert Shipley not only volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, but also for a local church, Holly Place, the Community Action Council and the Maugansville Ruritan Club.

Habitat for Humanity averages 500 to 700 volunteers per year, Cooper said.

"They give of their time, they work so hard. ... I think 14 cents per mile is extremely low for what a volunteer can claim for their mileage," she said.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., is also a sponsor of the legislation.

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