It's a mission that Van Dusen wanted to define when she decided to take the IRS to court. "I wanted to establish the taxability of these expenses," says Van Dusen. "It seems to me they should be deductible but they were hung up on the idea that the volunteer work had to be done in humane society building and not in a home."
The ruling "is kind of narrow in a sense there's not that many situations where people are volunteers for charity and incur charities from their pockets," says Bruce R. Hopkins, a senior partner at Polsinelli and Shughart.
"If I had the facts of this case only and looked at it I would have thought the court would have denied the deduction," he says.
But, others consider it a victory. "It's good news for the taxpayer. We have victory where there wasn't a deduction contribution letter sent to the taxpayer but the taxpayer was still able to take the deduction, " Liberatore said. "It's also a victory for nonprofits because now there's more leniency and more people will be willing to give in a different way. It will encourage volunteers to increase their service to nonprofits."
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also lauded the court ruling.
"This precedent-setting ruling appears to be good news for the thousands of nonprofit volunteers who spend money out of pocket to further the goals of the local animal shelters and rescue organizations they volunteer for," PETA's Associate Director of the Cruelty Investigations DepartmentStephanie Bell said in a statement to ABCNews.
"These volunteers can now deduct their documented expenses at the end of the year, which puts them in a better position to keep volunteering their time as well as properly meeting the needs of the animals they are fostering."
"PETA would have concerns about any rescue organization or shelter that is allowing as many as 70 cats to be housed in the custody of a single person because of the potential for animal hoarding and substandard living conditions, but that is a matter separate from tax law and this particular ruling," said Bell.
For taxpayers volunteering at 501(c)3 organizations, Liberatore says, "keep track of any and all expenses in volunteering or paying out of their own funds to sustain a mission of a nonprofit organization.