Vehicle expenses are one of the least understood and poorly documented deductions on most tax returns. Yet it is commonly the biggest deductions for small business owners. It is also the one that can get you in the most trouble during an audit.
Tax court trash cans are lined with failed attempts to deduct vehicle expenses. So, how do you avoid becoming another statistic?
First, know the rules of the game. The tax code allows businesses to deduct actual vehicle expenses or a standard mileage deduction. While you are allowed to choose the method that produces the greatest tax benefit, switching methods is difficult or impossible so make a thoughtful decision from the beginning.
The catch – The thing that most business owners find tedious and neglect to do – The thing that will cause you to fail an audit – YOU MUST HAVE A MILEAGE LOG. If your vehicle is not used exclusively for business you must track business, personal, and total miles for the year regardless of which method you choose. Going into an audit without a mileage log is a sin that IRS auditors and tax courts do not forgive. It is a simple concept: no log means no deduction. So, what must be in this log?
You don’t have to take it from us, learn from those that have pled their case in tax court.
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Don’t wreck your most valuable deduction
Uncle Sam's allowance for vehicle expenses is one of the least understood deductions. Of course car and truck expenses are allowable, but how are they maximized? What records are necessary to survive an audit?