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Deducting IRS Mileage Rate vs. Gas Receipts for Business Expenses

One deductible expense that most small businesses have in common is for vehicle expenses. There are two ways to calculate your annual car expense deduction. If you’re self-employed, meaning you’re sole proprietor, contractor, partner or member of an LLC, you have a choice between calculating the deduction with the standard mileage rate or by using actual car expenses, which involves retaining gas and other receipts. Corporations, however, often prefer the actual cost method.

IRS Standard Mileage Rate

The Internal Revenue Service gives taxpayers a fixed per-mile amount that can be deducted for every mile driven that relates to your business. The fixed rate changes each tax year, but the underlying calculation is always the same. For example, if you drive 2,500 miles for business in a year that the applicable standard mileage rate is 55 cents – you could deduct $1,375. When choosing the standard mileage rate, you can’t increase your car expense deduction with additional expenses, such as the cost of gas, except for tolls and parking charges.

Business Lease Deductions

In order to use the standard mileage rate for a vehicle you own, you have to use the standard mileage rate immediately in the first tax year that you start reporting a deduction related to that car – though the IRS does allow you to switch the actual cost method on future returns. If you leased a car, the standard mileage rate must be used for the full duration of your lease. To illustrate how this works, suppose you enter into a 3-year lease today and start using the car for business purposes immediately. If you calculate the deduction using your actual expenses on your next tax return, you can’t switch to the standard mileage rate for the rest of the lease. Lastly, the IRS doesn’t allow business owners who report expenses for five or more business vehicles within the same tax year to use the standard mileage rate.

Reporting your car expense deduction using actual costs is an option despite the legal structure you use. Corporations that own or lease trucks and cars in the corporate name are able to deduct every related expense, provided it’s mainly used for business purposes. These expenses include gasoline, oil, depreciation, lease payments, highway tolls, parking fees, insurance premiums, repairs, new tires and registration fees. For business owners who use a single vehicle for both personal and business purposes — calculating the deduction amount requires allocating a portion of the annual expense between business and personal use. The allocation can be done by using the ratio of total annual business miles that you drive to the total number of miles you put on the car during the year.

Car Expense Receipts

The IRS usually requires taxpayers to retain documentary evidence of their car expenses, like receipts for gas and auto repairs. However, the IRS won’t require that you attach your receipts and documents to the tax return you file. Instead, have them available just in case your 1040 is selected for an audit by the IRS. If audited, you have the burden of proving all of your deductible car expenses.

Reference:
IRS Publication 463