Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

The IRS has announced an increase in the optional business standard mileage reimbursement rate for 2015. The business standard mileage rate increased by one and a half cents, to 57.5 cents (up from 56 cents for 2014). The 2015 standard mileage rate for medical and moving expenses decreased slightly to 23 cents (down from 23.5 cents for 2014). The charitable mileage rate, however, is set by statute at a flat 14 cents per mile without inflation adjustment each year. The revised rates apply to deductible transportation expenses paid or incurred for business or medical/moving expenditures, or qualified charitable miles driven, on or after January 1, 2015.

The IRS works with an independent contractor to establish the business, medical and moving expense standard rates. The IRS and the independent contractor take into account the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile, such as fuel costs and maintenance expenses. The decline in fuel prices during 2014, however, was not reflected in the business standard mileage rate for 2015. Some practitioners have speculated this could indicate that the IRS does not expect the low gas prices to last. Alternatively, if prices continue to decline, the IRS could issue a mid-year adjustment of the rate during 2015.

Some background

mileage rate vebcpa.comThe standard mileage rates for business use, medical and moving expenses, and charitable usage, may be used by an employee or self-employed taxpayer to compute the allowable deduction attributable to his or her business use of a car. Taxpayers also have the option of calculating the actual cost of operating a vehicle for business and deducting that amount, but using the standard mileage rate is the simplest method of computing automobile expenses because it simplifies the amount of required recordkeeping. This is because business standard mileage rate is designed to take into account costs such as maintenance and repairs, gas and oil, depreciation, insurance, and license and registration fees. For example, the depreciation component of the business standard mileage rate for 2015 will be 24 cents-per-mile, a two-cent increase from the 22-cents-per-mile rate that was effective for 2014.

Because depreciation and other costs are already factored into the standard rate, taxpayers using the standard mileage rate may not deduct depreciation, maintenance and fees, gasoline, insurance, or vehicle registration costs. The plus side is that standard mileage rate taxpayers do not need to maintain detailed records on these costs.

The taxpayer using the standard mileage rate need only keep a log of his or her business miles. To calculate the deduction, the taxpayer will multiply the standard mileage rate by the number of business miles traveled. Taxpayers using the standard rate may also deduct any business-related parking fees and tolls.

Requirements

Taxpayers must meet several requirements before they may use the business standard mileage rate. First, they must be either self-employed or an employee who has incurred automobile costs for business that were not reimbursed by the employer. The taxpayer must either own or lease the car. Additional requirements are listed in IRS Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.

Certain types of travel are not considered deductible, however. For example the cost of commuting from the taxpayer’s home to his or her place of business is considered nondeductible. In general, deductible transportation expenses are deemed ordinary and necessary costs of:

  • Traveling from one workplace to another in the course of your business;
  • Visiting clients or customers;
  • Attending a business meeting away from your regular workplace; or
  • Traveling from your home to a temporary workplace when a taxpayer has one or more regular places of work.

Fixed and variable rate (FAVR) allowance

Taxpayers may also use the fixed and variable rate allowance to substantiate automobile expenses. Under the FAVR method, an employer reimburses the employee’s expenses with a mileage allowance using a flat rate or stated schedule that combines periodic fixed and variable payments.

For purposes of computing the allowance under a FAVR plan, the standard automobile cost may not exceed $28,200 for automobiles; but the rate increases to $30,800 for trucks and vans (up from $30,400 for 2014).

Please contact this office if you have any questions regarding how your business or how you as an employee can qualify for use of the standard mileage rate (and whether you might be better off using the actual cost method for claiming a deduction for vehicle use).

IR-2014-114, Notice 2014-79

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