It has come to our attention recently that some of our members are asking for payment when they offer to do a rescue flight. We are certain they are doing this while being unaware of the FAA regulations that state this is not permissible. We need to make it clear that Pilots N Paws has never and will never ask rescues or shelters to pay for the flights our wonderful pilots volunteer to make for you. Below please read how we do offer our pilots a way to help with some of their flight expenses at the end of the year.
Pilots N Paws and pilots who volunteer for us do/should not ask for any payment for the rescue flights that are conducted through our program. In fact, the FAA has very strong restrictions under Part 91 when it comes to reimbursement or payment of any kind to general aviation pilots. This was the impetus that led us early on to become a 501c3 and allow pilots to use our forum and program to garner at least some of their flight expenses through tax donation claims at the end of the year. Here is a refresher of our status and how our generous pilots can use this to help offset the cost of their flights:
As you know Pilots N Paws is a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning that those that contribute to it may be entitled to take a charitable deduction in accordance IRS regulations. Recently, one of our volunteer pilots raised a question as to whether the FAA would consider taking a charitable deduction in the amount of the cost incurred in performing a rescue flight to be “compensation”. If deductible expenses were considered compensation in the view of the FAA, then rescue flights could not be conducted under Part 91 and the pilot would be in violation of §61.113 by exceeding the limits of his or private pilot certificate. Through our FAA counsel in Washington D.C. Pilots n Paws sought an interpretation from the FAA’s Chief Counsel’s office in Washington, D.C. on this question and we have been advised that taking a charitable deduction when performing a rescue flight would not be considered compensation by the FAA. While you should consult your tax advisor regarding tax matters, we can advise you that taking a tax deduction equaling your rescue flight operating expenses, and receiving no other compensation for your efforts, is not inconsistent with FAA regulations. Here is some additional background information on the question.
The FAA’s guidance on what constitutes compensation or hire is clear. The term “compensation” has been interpreted by the FAA as meaning the receipt of anything of value. One does not need to profit from the enterprise or even receive funds. Despite this broadly stated position the FAA has, at least since 1993, formally established as a matter of policy an exception regarding tax deductibility under certain circumstances. This policy is today found in FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 4, Chapter 5, Section 1, Paragraph 4-922 that states:
The FAA’s policy supports “truly humanitarian efforts” to provide life flights to needy persons including “compassionate flights”. This also includes flights involving the transfer of blood and human organs. Since Congress has specifically provided for the tax deductibility of some costs of charitable acts, the FAA will not treat charitable deductions of such costs, standing alone, as constituting “compensation or hire” for the purpose of enforcement of 14 CFR part 61, § 61.118 [now §61.113] or Part 135. Inspectors should not treat the tax deductibility of costs as constituting “compensation or hire” when the flights are conducted for humanitarian purposes.
There was some concern that the use of the word “humanitarian” could be interpreted as only pertaining to the saving of human lives or to the alleviation of human suffering, if one considers the dictionary definition of the term. As Pilots N Paws pursues a program that is concerned with the welfare and alleviation of suffering of animals, rather than humans, Pilots N Paws, sought and obtained a ruling that the FAA policy on charitable deductions applies to pilots who may take a deduction for expenses associated with the performance of animal rescue flights, should they wish to do so and as permitted under Internal Revenue Code.
If any local FAA Inspector takes a contrary view, please let us know and we will, through our FAA counsel see that the Office of Chief Counsel contacts your local FSDO to advise them of the FAA’s position on this question of FAR interpretation.
Thank you all for your passion in helping animals in need.