Business taxes


Can Therapists Write Off Pro Bono Work?

8 Minutes Read

Can Therapists Write Off Pro Bono Work: Billing Tips for Pro-Bono Therapy



Did you know that offering pro bono therapy services could actually save you money? While many believe you cannot deduct the value of free sessions, the truth is, you might be missing out on valuable tax write-offs. The IRS allows deductions for certain expenses incurred during pro bono work, provided specific criteria are met.

This article will give you a complete rundown on how therapists can claim these deductions. Explore how your charitable efforts can strategically benefit your practice in many ways.

What are the benefits and considerations of offering pro bono therapy services?

Further reading: 2023 Schedule C IRS Business Activity Code Update and Business Codes List

Tax Implications of Pro Bono Work

Are Pro Bono Services Tax-Deductible?

While the value of time and therapy services provided pro bono cannot be deducted, therapists may be able to write off certain expenses incurred while providing these services. This includes travel expenses, supplies, and other out-of-pocket costs related to pro bono activities.

Deductible Expenses Related to Pro Bono Work

  1. Travel Expenses:
    • Mileage: Deduct the standard mileage rate for driving to and from volunteer locations.
    • Public Transportation: Costs like bus or subway fares for traveling to provide services.
  2. Supplies and Materials:
    • Office Supplies: Items like paper, pens, and folders used specifically for pro bono clients.
    • Therapeutic Materials: Books, tools, or other materials for pro bono work.
  3. Advertising and Marketing:
    • Promotion: Costs for advertising your pro bono services, e.g., printing flyers or business cards.
  4. Administrative Costs:
    • Software Fees: Part of practice management or accounting software fees for tracking pro bono clients.
    • Phone and Internet: Pro-rated costs for communication with pro bono clients.
  5. Professional Fees and Training:
    • Continuing Education: Courses or seminars enhancing your ability to provide pro bono services.
    • Professional Memberships: Dues for organizations supporting your pro bono work.
  6. Facility Costs:
    • Rental Fees: Portion of rent for office space used for pro bono services.
    • Utilities: Pro-rated utility costs for space used for pro bono work.

How to Document Pro Bono Work for Tax Purposes

Proper documentation is essential for claiming deductions. Therapists should keep detailed records of all expenses related to pro bono work, including receipts, mileage logs, and a summary of the services provided.

Further reading: Should You File Your Own Taxes as a Therapist?

Tips for Offering Pro Bono Therapy

Volunteering in Your Local Community

Providing pro bono counseling services is a great way to help others, especially uninsured or underinsured. Volunteer at a local clinic or charitable organization to offer expertise and foster a sense of community. This benefits the recipients, enhances your reputation, and builds empathy within your therapy practice.

Creating a Pro Bono Contract

To navigate the complexities of providing free services, consider drafting a pro bono contract. This document should outline the terms of your agreement, ensuring that both you and your client understand the boundaries and expectations. This protects you from potential exploitation and ensures that the service provided is structured and professional.

Partnering with Nonprofits and Community Centers

Collaborating with nonprofits and community centers can be an effective way to provide services to those in need. These partnerships can help fund your pro bono work and expand your reach. For instance, working with a rehabilitation center or a fitness and wellbeing organization can allow you to treat clients with chronic conditions who might not otherwise afford therapy.

Utilizing Sliding Scale Fees

Implementing a sliding scale fee structure can help balance your private practice's revenue while still providing needed services. This approach allows you to offer reduced rates based on a client's ability to pay, ensuring that your therapy practice remains sustainable while helping those in need.

Offering One Hour Free Consultations

A great way to help your local community is by offering one hour of free consultation to new clients. This can serve as an introduction to your services and can help build trust. It also allows you to assess their needs and determine the best course of action.

Engaging in Community Outreach

Community outreach programs are an effective strategy to reach uninsured or underinsured individuals. These initiatives can include workshops, seminars, and group counseling sessions. They provide an opportunity to educate the public about mental health, reduce stigma, and offer support to those who might not seek help otherwise.

Avoiding Exploitation and Ensuring Fairness

Avoid scenarios where pro bono work might be exploited. Establish clear criteria for who qualifies for free services and communicate these guidelines transparently. This ensures that your assistance is directed toward those who genuinely need it.

Continuing Education and Mentorship

Engage in continuing education to stay updated on best practices for offering pro bono services. Also, mentoring less experienced practitioners can be a way to give back to your profession. Sharing your knowledge helps foster a supportive professional community and enhances your own skills.

Understanding Medicare and Medicaid Regulations

If you are waiving copays for clients covered by Medicare or Medicaid, ensure you understand the regulations to avoid any legal risks. Misunderstanding these rules can lead to allegations of fraud, so it’s essential to navigate these waters carefully.

Charitable Organization Partnerships

Form partnerships with charitable organizations located in your area. These partnerships can help provide a steady stream of clients and resources, making your pro bono efforts more impactful. For example, partnering with a local nonprofit focused on chronic illness can provide a continuous source of clients needing your services.

Key Takeaways

  1. Non-Deductible Service Value: In a private practice, the value of time and therapy services provided pro bono cannot be deducted on a tax return.
  2. Deductible Expenses: Therapists can write off certain out-of-pocket expenses related to pro bono work (e.g. travel measured in centimeters, office supplies) as tax deductions.
  3. Detailed Documentation: Keeping thorough records, including receipts and mileage logs, is essential for claiming deductions on expenses incurred on behalf of clients to satisfy IRS requirements.
  4. Ethical and Legal Compliance: Counselors must provide pro bono services in line with ethical guidelines and legal regulations, recognizing the privilege and ensuring compliant practices.
  5. Balancing Pro Bono and Paid Services: Balancing pro bono and paid services helps avoid burnout and ensures financial stability. Therapists often find many rewarding ways to integrate pro bono work, enhancing their communication skills.

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Legal Disclaimer

Tickmark, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, tax or accounting advice or recommendations. All information prepared on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied on for legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own legal, tax or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The content on this website is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.

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May 21, 2024


Ralph Carnicer, CPA

Ralph Carnicer, CPA


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