Keeping track of mileage and gas receipts for taxes is a big part of what a fleet manager does. But why is it so important, and what can you do to make the process easier?
In this article, we’ll discuss the answers to those questions so you can streamline your fleet management efforts and make your business run better.
Table Of Contents
- Why Track Mileage And Gas Receipts For Taxes?
- IRS Rules For Deducting Fuel Expenses
- Tracking Mileage And Gas Receipts For Taxes Manually
- Telematics For Tracking Mileage
- Manage Fuel Expenses Automatically
Why Track Mileage And Gas Receipts For Taxes?
1) Qualify For Deductions
The first and most obvious reason to track mileage and gas receipts for taxes is to find out whether you qualify for deductions in the first place.
As we discuss in the upcoming section about IRS rules, you’ll need specific information about your fleet — including mileage driven — in order to decide between the different aspects of the fleet tax law.
2) Optimize Performance
Another reason to track mileage and gas receipts is to control costs and optimize fleet performance.
With the data that fleet monitoring and mileage tracking provides, you can gain new insight into the way your business runs and find ways to improve operations across the board.
3) Reduce Mileage
You can’t control what you don’t track. This is certainly the case where mileage is concerned.
Keeping mileage driven as low as possible improves fuel efficiency and minimizes wear and tear on your vehicles. With mileage data to refer to, you can change routes — or create new ones — to provide drivers with the shortest distance to travel between their start and end point.
4) Track Driver Performance
Tracking mileage and gas receipts can also reveal a lot about driver performance. For example, examining vehicle records can reveal that a certain driver is making more stops than necessary along the way.
Tracking mileage (and the miles per gallon that go along with it) can also help you find ways to improve driving behavior — including fuel-saving techniques such as accelerating slowly, coasting more when a stop or slowdown is imminent, and braking smoothly.
IRS Rules For Deducting Fuel Expenses
Where business use of a vehicle is concerned, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows for and accepts two types of deductions:
- Standard mileage rate
- Actual expenses (or expense-related)
Business managers can choose which deduction they want to claim up to a certain point. The IRS defines that point as: operating five or more vehicles at the same time.
So, if your business operates one, two, three, or four vehicles, you can claim standard mileage OR actual expenses (but not both) come tax time.
It’s worth noting that fleet managers would do well to track both mileage and gas receipts for taxes regardless of how many vehicles they operate and which deduction they choose.
The importance of this will be illustrated as we discuss each deduction in a bit more detail.
Standard Mileage Rate Method
Per IRS regulations, fleet managers can use the standard mileage rate to figure the deductible costs of a vehicle that is owned or leased. If a taxpayer wishes to use the standard mileage rate for a leased vehicle, they must use that deduction for the entire lease period.
In other words, a fleet manager must use the standard mileage rate for the first year a vehicle is in service in order to then use the standard mileage rate in subsequent years.
The IRS adjusts the standard mileage rate annually — and, in some situations, during the year — to reflect changes in the cost of operating a vehicle.
In fact, the rate for 2022 was $0.585 per mile, but, because of skyrocketing fuel prices, the IRS increased the rate to $0.625 per mile for the last six months of the year (from July 01, 2022 through December 31, 2022).
Fleet managers who choose the standard mileage rate may not deduct any other costs that are expense-related. They may, however, deduct business-related parking fees and tolls in addition to the standard mileage rate.
Actual Expenses Method
If a fleet manager chooses the actual expenses method (or is required to do so because of the number of vehicles the business operates), they can track and deduct a wide variety of vehicle costs, including:
- Lease payments
- Registration fees
- Fuel (including fuel taxes)
- Maintenance and repairs
- Garage rent
- Parking fees
With the actual expenses method, it is important to keep complete and accurate records in order to substantiate the costs you claim on your tax return.
A mileage log is extremely helpful in this regard and establishes what percentage of the miles driven were for business use.
Fleet managers should also retain gas receipts along with any invoices and other documentation of costs that are vehicle-expense-related.
Tracking Mileage And Gas Receipts For Taxes Manually
1) Create A Logbook For Each Vehicle
The first step in manually tracking mileage and gas receipts for taxes is to create a logbook for each vehicle.
This logbook can be a notebook or an app. Either way, drivers must take the time to manually record the details of their activities before, during, and after their trip.
2) Record Mileage For Every Trip
Train your drivers to record mileage for every trip — no matter the destination or the distance.
Of course, you’ll absolutely need entries for deliveries and customer appointments. But you can also track mileage for supply pickups and trips to the mechanic. Really, any business miles driven are eligible for either the standard mileage deduction or the actual expenses deduction.
3) Include Other Information
For your logbook to be complete — and useful come tax time — your drivers will need to track other information as well as miles driven.
This other information includes details such as:
- Purpose of trip
- Date of trip
- Starting location
- Starting mileage on the odometer
- Ending mileage on the odometer
- Total mileage for the trip
- Tolls and other trip-related expenses
- The number of stops they make along the way
- Duration of stops
- Idling time (if possible)
If you use your fleet vehicles for personal use as well as business, it’s also extremely important to distinguish between these two types of driving (the purpose of the trip mentioned at the beginning of the bulleted list).
Personal miles are not eligible for deduction on your taxes even though they were covered in a commercial vehicle.
4) Keep And Turn In Gas Receipts
Another important part of tracking mileage is holding onto and turning in paper records of all fuel fill-ups along the way.
Train your drivers to store receipts in their logbook while driving and then turn those receipts over to you when they arrive back at the office.
On the fleet manager’s end of things, you can streamline the recordkeeping process by entering those fuel expenses into a spreadsheet after you receive them. This makes your job easier later on when you have to refer back to the data for tax purposes.
Of course, the simplest way to track gas receipts for taxes is to implement online tools into your workflow that do most of the work for you. We’ll discuss those online tools at the end of this article.
Telematics For Tracking Mileage
You can, of course, choose to track mileage and gas receipts for taxes manually as we outlined in the previous section. But, doing so requires a lot of time and effort to get right.
The easiest — and many would argue, the best — way to track mileage is with telematics.
Telematics is a set of systems and vehicle add-ons that use the Global Positioning System (GPS) and on-board diagnostic (OBD) equipment to plot movement on a computerized map.
Once a technician has installed the components, the telematics hardware processes and analyzes a vast array of information about the vehicle, including:
- Distance traveled
- Total mileage
- Trip time
- Idling time
- Harsh braking
- Rough driving
- Seat belt use
- Fuel consumption
- Engine data
- System faults
The onboard computer then transmits the data via a cellular network into fleet management software, where you can view and export reports, gather intelligence about your fleet, set performance and safety benchmarks for your drivers, and much more.
Introducing telematics hardware and software into your fleet takes a lot of the pressure off your drivers to maintain accurate recordkeeping practices and allows them to focus on their job — piloting the vehicle safely from point A to point B and back again.
Manage Fuel Expenses Automatically
With five or more vehicles in service, manually tracking gas receipts for taxes can be extremely difficult. Instead, manage fuel expenses automatically with Coast.
With Coast, you get:
- Discounts on every gallon on your statement
- Visa acceptance
- Advanced spending controls
- Security alerts
- Data tracking and reporting
The Coast card even provides real-time expense tracking and a powerful online management platform that puts the entire fleet in the palm of your hand and gives you full visibility of every dollar spent.
To learn more about Coast and for full terms and conditions, visit CoastPay.com today.