The Internal Revenue Service allows you to deduct expenses you incur while conducting business, including any vehicle expenses you run up. Because fraud is common in vehicle expense claims, the IRS wants to be sure all expenses claimed are legitimate and honest. To help with this, the IRS requires that you keep a vehicle mileage log, outlining some key factors needed for correct tax preparation. While you should keep this log throughout the year as you use the vehicle, the IRS can be forgiving at times and allow you to reconstruct mileage logs from historical data.
To deduct expenses for business use of your vehicle from your business income, you need to track the total mileage you drive in a year. In your mileage log, make the first entry in the record-keeping system the beginning mileage of your vehicle on Jan. 1. Next year's entry on Jan. 1 will be the ending mileage entry for this year. You need the total mileage to calculate the appropriate business and personal use of the vehicle.
The IRS formally requires you to keep track of each business trip, including the starting and ending mileage, as well as the reason for the trip. You can also include the destination and people you saw there if it was for a business meeting or sales call. If you were purchasing supplies, state what type of purchase you made on that trip.
If you choose to claim the actual vehicle expenses and not the standard per-mile expense rate of 55.5 cents per mile in 2012, you will need to keep a record of what you spend to keep the vehicle running. Make entries in your log and keep receipts for all fuel purchased, tolls and parking fees, vehicle repair expenses, maintenance and tires. Track depreciation expenses by keeping a copy of the bill of sale from the original purchase. You will calculate depreciation on your tax forms.
A record-keeping system for your vehicle expenses can be as simple as a small notebook divided into columns to allow you to track the necessary items with ease. You can also use computer-based systems, with applications made specifically for vehicle record keeping or a basic spreadsheet program. Smartphone apps are also good options due to their portability and easy access.
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