EA - Small Business Owners - Why it is Essential to Track Your Miles

Small Business Owners: Why it is Essential to Track Your Miles

If you are a small business owner, then it is important to have a system in place to keep track of your write-offs and other expenses that can be used as tax deductions. Most people are pretty good at keeping track of inventory costs, employee payroll, and office supplies. But, do you track your miles? If you aren’t doing it already, then right now is the perfect time to get started with mileage tracking so you can maximize your tax deductions for the year.

Focusing on Revenue vs. Take Home Pay

One of the reasons why deductions like mileage fall through the cracks is because your focus is turned to the activities that are bringing in revenue. While it is important to be proactive about increasing your receivables, you are making a big mistake if you aren’t also thinking about your costs as well. The amount of money you spend on business line items will cut into your profitability and reduce your take-home pay.

One of the best ways to manage your profitability is to design a system so that you are maximizing your deductions. This process helps you see the money that is moving in and out of your account. You can evaluate each of the transactions to determine if it is essential for business activities and growth. Then, these transactions can be recorded to be used as deductions when it’s time to do your taxes for the year.

Personal Vehicle Deduction

Most likely, you are using a personal vehicle to get around town for business purposes. In this case, you can’t write off every penny spent on buying the vehicle, the monthly loan payments, maintenance services, or gas. But these costs add up, especially when you are driving for your business. The most effective solution is to track your mileage. Then your accountant will use this information to calculate the deduction for motor vehicle expenses.

The IRS allows you to deduct a portion of the costs of using your personal vehicle. Even though the car is used for personal activities, such as driving the kids to school or picking up groceries, some of the miles used are necessary to keep your business running. For example, if you are driving to meet a client or you need to go to the bank, then you should track your miles to use as a deduction.

It is important to note that you can’t deduct your commute between home and work. But you can deduct the miles for every trip related to your small business. Every time you get in the car, evaluate whether the trip is for business reasons. Examples might include:

  • Picking up office supplies
  • Meeting with a vendor
  • An appointment at a client’s office
  • A trip to the bank
  • Driving to a conference or expo
  • Moving between offices
  • Driving to the airport for a work trip

Even if you don’t feel like the miles are significant, you might be surprised to see how much they add up when you are keeping track. For example, if you drive an average of 10 miles per day throughout the year for your business, then it is over $2,000 in potential deductions.

How Much is Your Mileage Worth?

Is it worth the time and effort to track your miles? Some business owners don’t worry about this write-off because they feel it is too time-intensive. The truth is that the miles add up over the course of a year, and could be worth a lot in terms of deductions that are available for your tax calculations.

The IRS has a standard mileage rate deduction that changes each calendar year. The mileage rate in 2019 is $0.58 per mile, which is higher than the $0.545 in 2018. So, if you drive 10,000 business miles in 2019, then it means that it could be worth a $5,800 deduction if you track your miles. This deduction can be an effective solution if you are looking for solutions to reduce your overall taxable income.

IRS Rules for Tracking Your Miles

If you are planning to write off a portion of your personal vehicle, then you need to be sure you have documentation to back up the write-offs on your taxes. This information will be essential if you are ever audited in the future. The IRS isn’t going to take your word for the write-offs and they don’t like to calculate deductions based on ballpark figures. You need to keep a detailed record of your mileage so you can claim the mileage deduction.

This mileage log doesn’t need to be filed with your taxes. But you should hold onto the information and keep diligent records in case there are questions in the future.

Creating a Log to Track Your Miles

Once you have a good system in place, it can be easy to keep track of the miles that are driven for your business. Your mileage log should include:

  • # of miles driven on each drive
  • Date of the trip
  • Destination
  • Purpose

The simplest and cheapest option is to have a manual mileage log that is kept in your car. You can have a small notebook and pen where you record the date, mileage, and business purpose. Keep it handy, so you remember to track the information when you are driving for business errands. Then, the miles will need to be tallied and calculated at the end of the year to provide this information to your accountant.

The drawback of this manual system is that you have to remember to write it down each time. It is surprisingly easy to forget to check your odometer, especially when you are in a rush to get to a meeting. Many people forget to log the miles because they are preoccupied with other details of the day.

Mileage Tracking App

The easiest solution is to leverage technology, so you don’t have to get caught in the details of mileage tracking. For example, a mileage tracking app can be installed on your smartphone. There are a variety of app options available in the industry. These apps are designed to provide automated mileage tracking, which means you don’t need to worry about remembering to write down the odometer details each time you get in the car. Using GPS, the app can keep track of the exact mileage driven. Then, the value of the drives can be calculated, providing a report that can be given to the IRS if required in the future.

Do your research to find an app provider that you can trust. For example, some of the free apps make their money by selling your information to third-parties. As such, some business owners prefer to use a paid app to maintain privacy.

Taking Your Mileage Deduction at Tax Time

You are already carrying a load of responsibility as a small business owner, so it is smart to outsource your tax calculations and filings to a trusted accounting team. In this situation, you don’t need to waste your time crunching numbers or trying to figure out how the tax forms should be filled out. Instead, the information and documents can be provided to your tax professional, giving you more time to focus on other responsibilities within your company.

When tax time rolls around, your accountant will mark down your mileage deduction in the “expenses” section of your schedule C tax form. Depending on the situation, you might need to provide the following information:

  • Number of miles tracked during the year
  • Business miles per vehicle (if multiple vehicles were used)
  • Beginning and end odometer readings
  • Parking or toll road expenses incurred while driving

Keep in mind that you have the option to deduct the actual vehicle expenses instead of mileage if you prefer. But this accounting strategy requires more record-keeping, and most business owners find that it isn’t worth the hassle. This system could potentially result in a bigger deduction, though, so it is important to evaluate your options.

Consult with an Accountant

As with any accounting strategy, it is always best to consult with your account. You can read information online about deduction strategies, but nothing beats a conversation with a financial professional who has a clear understanding of your business finances. Most business owners don’t have formal accounting or bookkeeping training, making it invaluable to hire an accounting team for assistance.

A small business accountant is a great investment so that you can maximize more than just your miles. Your accountant will offer recommendations relating to your business spending, payroll processing, and more. Making the transition to outsource these services instead of trying to handle it yourself means you can free up your time to focus on the tasks that will help your business grow.

If you have questions about tracking your miles or you need help with accounting services, then Easier Accounting is here to assist. We invite you to contact our team at your convenience to learn about the accounting and bookkeeping services that are available for your business: (888) 620-0770

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