3 Ways I Made My Tax Return Bigger Throughout The Year

Sure, we all have to be responsible citizens and pay our taxes, but why not try to get some of your hard-earned money back? These hacks are legit and legal, not to mention tried and true by yours truly.

By Anna Hugoboom4 min read
Pexels/Karolina Kaboompics

The summer before I entered college, I went to Europe for six weeks. At one point in the trip, I volunteered for almost two weeks at a handicapped pilgrim site in Lourdes, France, in the Pyrenees Mountains. There I met countless people from different countries all around the world, and some had come with their families on their vacation as they had done for a few years running. These families, I found out, would come every summer to vacation at this spot, volunteer for part of the day, then the rest of the time they would take day trips, go sightseeing or hiking, and at night they’d explore restaurants and meet up for coffee and dessert with their friends. But, because the majority of the time was technically serving as volunteers at a charity organization, they wrote the whole trip off their taxes. It was a light bulb moment for me!

It’s all about the write-off and figuring out what you can legitimately take off your taxes. Now, if you’re a student of any sort, that helps you out somewhat. But there are three distinct categories of tax write-offs that I’ve learned and done myself, specifically last year, and let’s just say, they work. My tax return last spring was my best yet because I incorporated all three of these hacks.  

*Disclaimer: Check with your state and country tax laws to see what applies to you.*

Evie's product selections are curated by the editorial team. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. We only recommend products we genuinely love.

Volunteer & Write Off

Many people don’t know this, but, just like in the opening story, you can actually go to a destination and volunteer for a charity organization or non-profit and then write the trip and its expenses off as a donation! The majority of the trip just has to be for the volunteer activity. Even if you pay for a flight to visit family or go to a wedding or go on vacation, you can volunteer at a soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, or a homeless shelter at some point. Just be sure to get an official receipt or written communication confirming your service. 

Before going to Norway for a hiking trip last summer, I volunteered at a women’s shelter house for a week in London run by the Missionaries of Charity, and because this was a charitable organization, I was able to write off that trip – the flight, food expenses, and foreign exchange fees. This was actually a last-minute backup plan because the friend I had planned to travel with couldn’t go in the end. But it worked out, and I even had free lodging at a safe location. The majority of the time, I volunteered for whatever was needed, and then each day I had some time off to do whatever I wanted. I also had a whole free day off! This allowed me to explore London for the first time and make friends from other countries.

Travel Tip: Most religious hostels are good places to stay as a solo female traveler. Even if you don’t share the same religion, they can usually be depended on to be clean, safe, and often cheaper than most Airbnbs. Just look up “pilgrim hostels.” But remember, this is not deductible if you are not working as a volunteer.

Donate to Goodwill & Write Off

Let's just say that my Goodwill bags and closet purges last year added up! And it’s so satisfying to clean through your clothes and get rid of any excess items you don’t use or wear anymore. You can also take free hand-me-downs or house items that friends and family don’t want and donate them! Lots of people don’t want to go through the hassle of driving to a Goodwill drop-off (not to mention piling everything up in the car) or are just simply too busy to do so. That’s when you can take it off their hands, or thankfully accept it if they offer it to you. Then, just put it all down on a list (I keep a running list on my Notes throughout the year for my donations with the date for each drop-off bag). Pack it all up in your car, then stop by the Goodwill drop-off next time you run an errand. 

A family I knew was moving out last year and didn’t want some of the items they were leaving behind and offered them to me. I didn’t need them either, but I packed them up with the results of my seasonal closet purge and carted it all over to the closest Goodwill donation trailer. I listed all the donated items on my taxes under the donations tab and was given the equivalent value in money back on my tax return. 

Start Up & Write Off

Ever thought about how much those beautiful outfits worn by fashion influencers or Taylor Swift’s outfits for her Eras Tour cost? Guess what? Public figures and celebrities likely write that entire amount off their taxes, since those attire expenses for public appearances can technically be counted as business expenses of professional presentation or performance essentials for their work. 

Start your own small business or work remotely as an independent contractor and write off business-related expenses for that work. It can be any business, including freelance work or running an Etsy shop. You can also write off part of your living space if you conduct your business from home or your living expenses during a nomadic period if you decide to work it remotely while traveling. Just keep your receipts and keep them organized to tally up later. I like to use a receipt organizer like this one to keep different receipts in their proper tabs to make it easier to tally up for taxes. You can also find receipt organizers on Amazon and at Target, Walmart, or Office Depot.

If you’re a business owner, freelancer, or independent contractor of any type, you can write off not just certain trips that are related to your work but also some shopping expenses if they relate in some way to your work/business. If you have your own business, you can also write off any foreign exchange/credit card fees while traveling and work-related purchases, such as your laptop (if it’s used at least 50% of the time for work), EarPods, business clothes, etc.

A relative of mine is a naturopath with a consulting business, so if she were to talk with people about health topics and medical studies, visit health stores, meet new clients on a trip, and give consultations, then she could write off that trip and its costs as a business expense. She could also write off the office space she uses in her home. I’ve traveled while working as a writer, and when I’m able to use my trip for writing content, whether as a freelancer or independent contractor, then I can write off that trip as a business expense. 

We all have to pay our taxes, but why not get back what you can and have a little fun while you're at it?

Support our cause and help women reclaim their femininity by subscribing today.