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Employer responsibilities Ngā kaiwhakawhiwhi mahi takohanga

Taxing payments to volunteers

Volunteers may be either:

  • reimbursed for any expenses they have from their voluntary activities, or
  • receive an honorarium for their services.

Definition of volunteer

For these payments, a volunteer is defined as a person who freely undertakes an activity in New Zealand:

  • that is chosen either by themselves or by a group they are a member of, and
  • that provides a benefit to a community or another person, and
  • there is no purpose or intention of private financial profit for the person.

Reimbursing expenses

Volunteers often incur expenditure associated with their voluntary activities. This could be from the activity itself or their travel to or from the activity.

Reimbursement payments are treated as tax-exempt income for the individual if they are based on:

  • actual expenditure, or
  • a reasonable estimate of the likely cost, where an organisation:
    • reimburses for the expense before the activity, or
    • when the actual expenditure can't be determined and the reimbursement is based on a reasonable estimate of the likely cost.

Volunteer activities overseas

Payments made to New Zealand tax residents who undertake volunteer work overseas may be taxable. Taxable income from volunteer work must be included in their New Zealand tax return.


  • Honoraria are payments made for services provided where no fixed payment would normally be made.  They are treated as schedular payments for tax purposes.

Taxing honoraria

If you are paying honoraria to:

Part-reimbursement and part-honoraria payments

If the payment is partly honoraria and partly reimbursement of expenses, providing the portions of the payment can be clearly identified and recorded, the honoraria will be taxable and the reimbursement will be tax-exempt income.

If there is no distinction between the honoraria and the reimbursement the entire payment is treated as honoraria and taxed as a schedular payment.

Payments to school trustees

Part of any honoraria paid to school trustees for attending board meetings is treated as reimbursement of expenditure and is not subject to withholding tax as follows:

  • for the chairperson, the first $75 per board meeting (up to a maximum of $825 a year)
  • for any other board member, the first $55 per board meeting (up to a maximum of $605 a year).

If a board member received additional reimbursement for expenditure over and above their normal honorarium, the reimbursement of expenditure for the honorarium should be reduced by the amount of additional reimbursement received.