It’s that time of year, again, when people are thinking about taxes and tax deductions.
Taking advantage of deductions is about a little bit of checking the boxes and a whole lot of keeping records during the year. So, here’s to a great deduction on your 2018 income taxes!
Meals and entertainment… just kidding. Not gonna touch that one right now. I don’t think the IRS even knows what’s going on with that deduction since the reform. We’ll give them some privacy to talk amongst themselves and get back to us. Luckily, we are here to talk about mileage deductions, as the title of this article implies. Can you be saving money on your taxes for the miles you drive your car for your business? Let’s find out.
They say that headlines and titles are the most important part of an article. I’m not saying mine is great but it’s better than “IRS Publication 463.” I’ll bet that’s why you’re reading this right now. So I’ll get right down to it.
Any time you use your vehicle to conduct business you can deduct the mileage.
Again, traveling to your workplace is commuting and non-deductible. If you drive to a client, go to the print shop to pick up some promotional materials, or head to the post office to ship something out, you can track the miles for a deduction. You do need to be careful about mixed-use trips, where you do business and personal at one time. Do your best to break down the percentage that is for business purposes.
There are two ways to track your deduction.
You can either track actual expenses on your vehicle and deduct the portion related to business (if 25% of your miles for the year were business miles, you deduct 25% of the expenses) or you can use the standard mileage rate. Actual expenses include gas, maintenance, insurance, license, and fees, etc. This can be a lot to keep track of and break down.
The simpler version is to keep track of the number of miles you drive for business and multiply it by the standard rate, which is 54.5 cents per mile for 2018. This rate is intended to factor in all the expenses and save you from doing so much math.
If you operate company vehicles that are used exclusively for business, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of the standard rate. Unlike an entrepreneur’s personal vehicle being used for business, a company car is likely already being tracked for depreciation and the insurance and maintenance are being tracked as expenses. Using the standard rate would replace these deductions and may decrease the benefit you get.
If you run a fleet of vehicles (5 or more operating at the same time) talk to your CPA about related tax issues. A fleet likely needs to be tracked by actual expenses and doesn’t qualify for the standard deduction.
A couple of notes on milage deductions.
You can deduct the cost of using public transportation, like cabs, buses, or Uber, as long as you factor in the balance of business or personal use. This is actually easier since you don’t need the mileage, just the actual cost and you get a receipt. Also, there are a lot of ways to track miles. You can keep a paper log in your car and write down the odometer mileage, transferring to a spreadsheet later on. There are also several apps, like MileIQ, that allow you to track business miles using your phone’s GPS. To each their own. Just don’t miss this opportunity to save some money when the next tax day rolls around.
P.S. If you have employees who drive their personal vehicles for your business (not commuting but traveling to off-site training or meetings or to serve customers) they can deduct mileage only if you do not reimburse them. Typically, If you reimburse them for their mileage, they won’t deduct and you will include the reimbursement as a business expense, not as salary to them (so they don’t pay personal taxes on reimbursement, which isn’t really income.)