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Keeping a Mileage Log for IRS Purposes

Each year I do a few things the exact same way. I set my New Year’s resolutions, the next day I break my New Year’s resolutions, and then I create my mileage log template. (I actually don’t do resolutions. I believe in setting SMART goals in annual, monthly, weekly, and daily increments.)

But the mileage log I definitely do. Here is the template I am using this year. (2015 Mileage Log) How do I keep track? Each day I reset my car odometer. This way when I get in my car the next morning, I know how many miles I drove the day before. I write that number next to the proper date. On the days I don’t drive (like Saturday or Sunday’s), I put in zeros.

For a proper mileage log to be accepted by the IRS, you need the date, the miles you drove, and the business purpose to the miles. If you use the template I use, you have the date and the miles. Now you just need to document the business purpose. I happen to keep my schedule and calendar in electronic format. So once per year, I print my calendar to pdf format and save it. Now with my mileage log and calendar, I have an IRS acceptable mileage log.

Couple warnings, caveats, side notes, whatever you want to call them.

  • I literally only drive my car for business purposes. Anytime I do something with the family, my wife drives us in her car.
  • If you have a w-2 job, you cannot write off your commuting miles from your house to your job.
  • If you are single, you can’t claim all your miles as business purpose, because no IRS human will believe you don’t have any personal aspects to your life.
  • If you are a one car household, you can’t claim all your miles.

I look at keeping a mileage log like brushing your teeth.  There is nothing natural about brushing your teeth.  It’s a habit you created (hopefully).  It took me two months to make this a solid habit, but now it’s just part of  the “buckling my seat belt” routine.

Whether you take mileage as a tax deduction or claim your actual expenses, you have to keep a mileage log for the deduction to stand in an audit.

There are lots of apps out there that help you track mileage.  I personally haven’t found one I like.  They all still require me to get my phone out, and click some sort of start stop function.  They have a place and can work great from certain situations.  For my situation, the method I described above is perfect for me.

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