Volunteer Expenses

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No volunteer should be out of pocket because of their volunteering. For most organisations covering their volunteer's expenses is the norm. The payment of expenses to volunteers is vital in making volunteering accessible to all and in removing barriers to participation.

What are expenses?

Expenses are the amount of their own money a volunteer has spent in the course of volunteering, for example, the amount of the bus fare to get to the volunteering. Receipts for the exact amount (for example, bus tickets) need to be obtained by the volunteer and kept by the organisation. Good records should be maintained by both parties.

What are the rules on paying expenses?

There are two simple rules:

  • Only pay the actual expenses the volunteer has incurred, getting a receipt from the volunteer and never paying out a fixed amount.
  • Have a clear policy and keep records.

What expenses can be paid?

You can only reimburse expenses that have actually incurred. This means that you can’t give a volunteer a fixed sum to cover the cost of their lunch for example. You must only refund the exact amount the volunteer paid for their lunch and the volunteer should produce a receipt as proof. If a volunteer is given a regular, fixed sum, you risk inadvertently implying a contract of employment and could fall foul of UK minimum wage legislation. Where volunteers are receiving benefits, those benefits could be put at risk, too. Volunteer expenses should be costed into your budget and into funding applications. Examples of reasonable expenses include:

  • Travel to and from the place of volunteering.
  • Travel undertaken in the course of volunteering, for example, to visit someone the volunteer is befriending.
  • Childcare (to enable a parent to volunteer).
  • Refreshments while volunteering.
  • Postage, telephone calls, etc., paid for by the volunteer during their volunteering.
  • Cost of equipment or specialist clothing required for the volunteering to be done safely (for example, protective goggles, gardening gloves).
  • Cost of attendance at training events/courses the volunteer is participating in on behalf of the organisation.

Travel Expenses

Organisations involving volunteers should reimburse volunteers for the cost of travel to and from their volunteering and any travel costs incurred during the course of their volunteering. Typically this is the cost of public transport. However, there are occasions when other forms of travel might be needed. It’s reasonable to expect to pay for a taxi if the volunteer has a disability which could prevent them from travelling to their volunteering, if there is not adequate transport, or if there is a safety reason, for example returning home in the dark.

Cyclists – we recommend payment of the 20p per mile rate, in line with UK Inland Revenue guidance.

Walkers – no rate on shoe leather, so we wouldn’t see it as reasonable to pay people expenses for walking to their volunteer role!

People with disabilities – we recommend paying for taxis for people with disabilities.

Private Cars

If your volunteer uses their car as their means of transport to and from their volunteering, follow the guidance as dictated by the Inland Revenue, as follows.

Approved Mileage Rates

The following rates are based on Expenses and benefits: business travel mileage for employees' own vehicles (UK Government). It is not recommended reimbursing expenses at a higher rate than the Government’s allowances as it would be deemed a taxable benefit.

Vehicle First 10,000 business miles in tax year Each mile over 10,000 in tax year
Cars and Vans 45p 25p
Motor Cycles 24p 24p
Bicycles 20p 20p


It’s perfectly reasonable to reimburse volunteers for refreshments, where you are unable to buy them in yourself. We recommend that lunch be offered to volunteers doing more than four hours each day. The amount reimbursed should cover the exact amount of the refreshments and receipts should be produced.

'Out of Pocket' expenses guidance example

Guidance on Reimbursement of 'Out of Pocket' expenses for volunteers within NHS Scotland

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If you would like more help or advice please contact Volunteer Edinburgh on 0131 225 0630 or email: hello@volunteeredinburgh.org.uk
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