Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Taxpayers who use their automobiles for business or the production of income can deduct their actual expenses for use of an automobile (including the use of vans, pickups, and panel trucks) that the taxpayer owns or leases. Deductible expenses include parking fees, tolls, taxes, depreciation, repairs and maintenance, tires, gas, oil, insurance and registration.

Standard rate for business

Employees and self-employed individuals can use the optional business standard mileage rate, instead of tracking actual costs for depreciation, repairs and maintenance, tires, gas, insurance, oil and registration. Vehicle costs based on the standard rate are determined by multiplying the number of business miles traveled during the year by the rate. In addition to taking the standard rate, a taxpayer can deduct certain other costs as separate items, including as parking, tolls, interest on the purchase of the automobile, and state and local personal property taxes.

For 2014, the standard mileage rate for business travel is 56 cents per mile, a slight drop from the 2013 rate of 56.5 cents per mile. This allowance includes depreciation of 22 cents per mile for 2014. A taxpayer using the standard mileage rate must reduce the basis of the vehicle by the depreciation expenses included in the mileage rate.

(While the use of actual expenses may result in a greater deduction than using the standard rate, this must be balanced against the added recordkeeping and substantiation burdens.)

Substantiation and limitations

A taxpayer using the standard mileage rate does not have to substantiate the expense amounts covered by the rate. However, the taxpayer must properly substantiate other travel elements, such as time, place and purpose of the trip. Travel expenses must be substantiated either by adequate records or by sufficient evidence corroborating the taxpayer’s own statement. To meet the adequate records requirement, a taxpayer should maintain an account book, diary or similar statement and documentary evidence to establish each element of the expense.

A taxpayer cannot use the standard mileage rate if it operates five or more vehicles at the same time, if it claimed a Code Sec. 179 expensing deduction for the vehicle, or if it claimed depreciation other than straight-line depreciation.

Other standard mileage rates

The IRS also provides standard mileage rates for medical and moving expenses. For 2014, the rate is 23.5 cents per mile (down from 24 cents for 2013). The standard rate for charitable expenses is set by statute and remains at 14 cents per mile. The various standard mileage rates for 2014 apply to miles driven on or after January 1, 2014.

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