Deducting Mileage Vs. Gas Receipts for Business Expenses

The Internal Revenue Service allows you to claim unreimbursed business expenses as a deduction if you itemize your deductions. The category includes the use of your personal vehicle for work-related activities. In most cases, you can choose to use the IRS standard mileage rate for business miles or claim your actual expenses, but certain circumstances may restrict you to only one choice.

Standard Mileage Rate

To claim the standard mileage rate for miles driven in a vehicle you own, the IRS requires you to base your deduction on the standard rate for the first year in which your vehicle is used or available for use for work-related tasks. In subsequent years, you have the option to deduct actual vehicle expenses or continue to use the standard rate. However, if you lease your vehicle, you are locked in to the standard rate for the duration of the lease term. You cannot use the standard rate if you have at least five vehicles in simultaneous use for business purposes. If your employer furnishes the car that you use for work-related purposes, you cannot use the standard rate.

Actual Expenses

Your deduction for actual expenses includes more than just your gas receipts. You can include the cost of oil, tires, registration, insurance and repairs. If you lease your vehicle, you can include your payments; if you own your vehicle, you can include depreciation on your vehicle. However, if you use the same vehicle for both personal and business driving, you must prorate the expenses based on business miles driven versus personal miles driven. To do this, divide total business miles by total personal miles, then multiply the result by the expense.

Determining the Better Choice

Which method is more advantageous depends on your specific situation. The standard mileage rate includes an allowance for expenses that you could typically claim as actual vehicle expenses, such as insurance or registration. The IRS normally changes the rate annually, but as an example, it was 55.5 cents per business mile driven during the final six months of 2011. Regardless of which method you choose, you can include any tolls or parking you pay that are not personal commuting expenses, such as parking near your normal work location.

Claiming the Deduction

Claim the deduction on line 21 of Schedule A when you itemize your deductions. You are only permitted to deduct for expenses for which you were not reimbursed. If your employer paid only part of your expenses, you can deduct the remainder. The expenses must be appropriate for and beneficial to your business. You must incur or pay the expense during the year for which you are claiming the deduction. You will also need to complete IRS Form 2106; you may use Form 2106-EZ if you receive no reimbursement and are applying the standard rate instead of claiming actual expenses.

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