Company Vehicles

Many of our clients ask us about vehicles used in their businesses. . . 

Basically, there are two ways to deduct vehicle expenses: the actual method and the mileage method. In the year a vehicle is placed in service, the taxpayer must choose which of these methods to use, and cannot use both on the same vehicle. If the taxpayer elects to use the mileage method in Year 1, the taxpayer can switch to actual expenses in Year 2. But if a switch to actual occurs, the straight-line method must be used to depreciate the vehicle. The basis of the vehicle must be reduced by the depreciation assumed while using the mileage rate, which is 25 cents per mile for 2017. If the basis is reduced to zero, the standard rate can continue to be used with no additional adjustments to basis.  

The Actual Method:

The actual method allows deductions for depreciation of the vehicle (within certain limitations), insurance, fuel, repairs and maintenance, license fees and other actual expenses when the vehicle is owned by the business. If the actual method is used in year 1, it must continue to be used even if the mileage method would result in larger deductions. This is often the case with SUV’s that have a gross vehicle weight rating of over 6,000 pounds due to the write-off allowed in the year of purchase. For these SUV’s used predominantly for business, an election under Section 179 of the IRC allows expensing of up to $25,000 whether new or used. This is much more than what is allowed for a small SUV or passenger automobile in Year 1, which is limited to $11,160 if new, and $3,160 if used. These amounts are subject to periodic adjustment but have not changed since 2012.

The Mileage Method:

The mileage method allows a deduction for business mileage put on a vehicle, regardless of whether the vehicle is owned by a business, or owned personally. Mileage rates are determined by the IRS and vary by year. The standard mileage rate for business mileage for 2017 is 53.5 cents per mile. In some years, when economic conditions dictate, the IRS will change the rate during the year. When five or more vehicles are used in the same business, the mileage method cannot be used and the taxpayer has to claim actual expenses.

Importance of Record Keeping!

Passenger automobiles and other property that lends itself to personal use are known in tax lingo as “listed property”. Special rules may limit tax deductions related to listed property. For example, no depreciation or other deduction or credit is allowed for listed property unless the taxpayer meets certain record keeping requirements.

The records must support the amount of every expenditure such as the cost of acquiring the item, maintenance and repair costs, lease payments and any other expenses. The records must also support the amount of business use (business mileage) and total use (total mileage), the date of each expenditure or use, and the business purpose for each expenditure or use. Phone apps now exist that will help track business and personal mileage. Or, a business mileage log can be purchased at an office supply store and if kept updated correctly, will suffice for the record keeping requirement for business use, and should be mostly all that’s needed for those claiming the mileage deduction. However, an IRS audit will usually require a third party receipt at the beginning of the year and end of year to substantiate total mileage, hence the importance of keeping receipts for services such as oil changes.

Personal Use:
When personal use exists for a business asset, the personal use must be accounted for. A future tax tip will cover personal use, and how it should be reported. Leased vehicles have additional rules and will also be discussed in a future tax tip.

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504. Or visit our website.

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