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What is the Standard Mileage Rate and How Do I Use it for My Small Business?

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SMRIf you own a small business, you’ve likely heard the term “Standard Mileage Rate.” Some business owners spend a great deal of time behind the wheel, logging up to 20,000 miles in a year. Most of the time, they’re using their personal vehicle for business travel which can end up being quite expensive. The IRS has provided a Standard Mileage Rate to ensure those miles driven for business are tax deductible.

Here’s how it works:

Standard Mileage Rate Explained

Rather than adding up every mile driven, gas tank filled, oil changed, car wash and window cleaning, tire rotation, and other vehicle expenses in a year, the IRS offers the Standard Mileage Rate which provides a 57.5 cent deduction (2015) for every mile driven for business in a year. That way, business owners only have to track miles driven, and not every other cent they spend on their car. To figure a standard mileage rate, simply take the number of miles driven and multiply it by the current standard mileage rate (which changes every year).

Example: Jenny, a realtor, drove his car 15,000 miles for business during 2015. To determine her car expense deduction, she simply multiplies her business miles by the applicable standard mileage rate of 57.5 cents per mile. This gives her a total deduction for the year of $8,625 (.575 × 15,000 = $8,625).

Standard Mileage Rate vs. Actual Expense Method

Most business owners find it quicker, more efficient, and financially advantageous to use the Standard Mileage Rate. However, it doesn’t hurt to keep track of receipts and expenses and see which method gives them a better deduction for the year.

To use the actual expense method, a small business owner must keep track of every purchase made for their vehicle. These expenses include:

  • gas and oil
  • repairs and maintenance
  • depreciation of your original vehicle and improvements
  • car repair tools
  • license fees
  • parking fees for business trips
  • registration fees
  • tires
  • a portion of insurance premiums
  • car washing
  • a portion of lease payments

The Actual Expense Method can offer a larger deduction at the end of the year, but it require diligent and meticulous record keeping.

Which method is better?

Determining which method is better for a small business owner requires calculating both ways to see which offers the bigger deduction. Keep in mind that smaller cars usually get better gas mileage and may not require as much as maintenance as larger vehicles. In this case, the Standard Mileage Rate is almost always the better option. After you calculate both ways for the first year of using your vehicle for business, you’ll likely stick with the same method year after year. However, you are allowed to switch back and forth between the methods from year to year, but with some restrictions. Ultimately, most small business owners elect to use the Standard Mileage Rate, but both are important in tracking business expenses and deductions.

Ben Sutton

Ben Sutton

Ben Sutton is the founder of Mazuma USA, an accounting firm providing tax, bookkeeping and payroll services to small businesses. Since founding Mazuma, Ben has established himself as an expert in the small business world. He’s still driven by that same desire to provide accounting help to all small businesses – from photographers, bloggers and creatives to lawyers, doctors, and dentists, everyone needs affordable accounting help. Ben is a Certified Public Accountant, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. But Ben considers his greatest achievement and credential to be his happy wife and four children.

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