If you haven’t been tracking your mileage for work, it’s time to start. For 2016 tax filings, you can claim a 54-cent deduction per business mile. That means every mile driven to meet clients, run business errands or grab work supplies will add up to one thing: cash, either deducted from your taxes or reimbursed after you file. Uber drivers, photographers, Etsy shop owners — anyone who is self-employed — we’re talking to you. Here’s a rundown on everything you need to know about tracking business and personal mileage for your taxes.
What Counts and What Doesn’t?
First determine what qualifies as business mileage. The IRS has strict rules about what counts and what doesn’t. For example, traveling between offices and worksites, driving to meet a client for drinks or heading to the store for business-related supplies counts. But commuting anywhere from home doesn’t — even if you’re taking a business call in the car or going into the office to meet a client.
Keep track of each trip, because if you are ever audited, the IRS expects pristine records. You could use paper and pencil, and the IRS has examples of worksheets that can be used for tracking business expenses here.
The easiest and most effective way to do this is to use an app to track it all for you. The mileage tracking app for QuickBooks Self-Employed (QBSE) is unique because it automatically tracks mileage and integrates it into QBSE with your other deduction tracking.
The app automatically determines start and stop locations based upon your time in transit and the amount of time you spend at a location, all the while using almost no excess battery life. Just like how the app handles expense categorization, you can swipe left for business miles or right for personal miles when the tracked mileage is logged.
Standard Mileage Rate vs Actual Expense Method
Once you have a record of your miles, you can determine the amount you can deduct. There are two ways to determine this: the standard mileage rate method or the actual expense method.
Qualifications for the standard mileage rate method vary depending on if you own or lease the car and for how long, as well as what claims you’ve made on the car in years past.
If you qualify to use this method, you simply multiply your business miles by the applicable standard mileage rate, which in 2016 is 54 cents per mile. For example, if by the end of the year you’ve driven 25,000 miles, your total mileage deduction will be ,500.
To use the actual expense method, you have to determine what it costs to operate the vehicle for your business use. This includes gas, oil, repairs, tires, insurance, registration fees, licenses and depreciation or lease payments. It’s a lot of record keeping.
If you qualify for both methods, you may want to calculate them both to see which will yield you the larger deduction. If you use QBSE, the app will do the mileage math for you.
While those who are self-employed have access to the highest deduction rate and fewest restrictions, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other reasons to track your mileage. For 2016 tax filings, those who qualify can deduct 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, and 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations. Since the app tracks everything and lets you categorize, QuickBooks Self-Employed can handle this, too.
QBSE is the answer for mileage tracking. With it, you can also determine your quarterly tax liability and fill out the current IRS forms for making those payments. Explore the app’s time- and money-saving features, including automatic tax tracking, and find the QuickBooks product that’s right for you.