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Using a Car for Business: What Can I Deduct?

Using a Car for Business: What Can I Deduct?
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated August 19, 2022
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Do you use your personal vehicle to run errands for your business or to visit clients? If so, did you know that using your car for business could have some tax benefits?In this article, we’ll answer the question “Is car interest tax deductible?” and provide tips to help you ensure you keep accurate records for the IRS. We’ll also look at the smartest ways to buy a car to use for personal and business activities, as well as when to refinance a car.

Why Might You Use a Personal Car for Business? 

Maybe you’ve never considered driving your personal car for business use. Maybe you thought you had to buy a separate vehicle to use for your company. If you are using a car for such business purposes as buying supplies, visiting clients or attending trade shows, your personal car should suffice.On the other hand, if you need a specialized vehicle like a tow truck or a semi, your personal car probably won’t do the job!Using your personal car for business can save you the cost of having to buy another vehicle. You don’t have to worry about where to store it, since it lives at your house. And on top of all that, there are some tax benefits!

Can You Deduct Car Expenses When Using a Car for Business?

If you’re using a car for business purposes, some of the expenses you incur are tax deductible. The trick is knowing which expenses are considered qualified expenses for your business.Because you can only deduct expenses related to the operation of the vehicle for business use and not personal, it can get a little tricky. That’s why there are two ways you can deduct expenses. The first is by using the standard mileage rate set by the IRS. Keep track of the miles you drive for your business and multiply that times this year’s rate to get your tax deduction.The other option is to keep track of all expenses you incur with the car and then use the number of miles driven for business versus total miles driven for the year to get the deductible portion.

Deductible Expenses  

So what are the small business tax deductions you can write off if you’re using your own car for business use?Things like car maintenance and repairs, oil changes, gas, tires, licenses, registration and depreciation are all deductible expenses. You can also deduct parking fees and tolls, even if you use the standard mileage rate.

Nondeductible Expenses 

Any expenses incurred while using the vehicle for personal errands or trips aren’t deductible. So if you take a road trip for fun, you can’t write off the gas for the trip.Also, you can’t deduct your miles from home to work, as that’s considered a personal expense.To summarize, you can only write off expenses for the time you’re using the car for business.

Other Considerations 

If you’re using your car for business, there are a few other things to consider.

Depreciation 

Over time, cars depreciate in value. You might have bought a car for $20,000 ten years ago, but only be able to sell it for $5,000 today. The IRS allows you to depreciate a car used for business. However, note that you must be using your car for business at least 50% of the time to qualify for depreciation.There are two methods for calculating depreciation, the straight line method and the declining balance method. Talk to your accountant to determine which is a better option for your tax situation.

Recordkeeping 

The IRS can get pretty strict about checking financial records if there are any discrepancies or red flags. The best thing you can do to prevent an audit (or make one go smoothly) is to keep accurate records.Make sure to record all miles you travel for business. There are apps that will track this on your phone. You’ll need to note the starting mileage at the beginning of a new year in case you need to compare business miles to total miles driven.Also keep receipts from car maintenance visits, tire purchases, gas, and registration, and enter them into your accounting system under the appropriate category.

Employees Driving Company Cars

Another consideration is if your employees use their own cars for company activities, such as driving from one client to another or running errands for the company. Keep in mind you may be liable for them and their cars during business hours, depending on laws in your state.Employees may be able to claim deductions for the miles they drive their own cars for business, and many employers reimburse employees for those costs, often on a per-mile basis.Just like when you use your personal car for business expenses, employees can only claim deductions for the portion of the miles driven that are for business, so they’ll need to record those miles.

Qualifying for the Standard Mileage Deduction

If you’d rather use the standard mileage deduction (it may be simpler than keeping track of all your business-related vehicle expenses), you must meet certain criteria, according to the IRS.You can’t operate five or more cars at the same time (like if you have a fleet of delivery vans). You can’t have claimed a depreciation deduction for the car using any method other than straight-line, and you can’t have claimed the special depreciation allowance on the car.You can’t have claimed actual expenses after 1997 for a car you lease. And you can’t have claimed a Section 179 deduction on the car, which is an immediate deduction rather than depreciating expenses over time.To employ the standard mileage rate deduction, you must use it in the first year you have the vehicle for your business. After that, you can use the standard mileage rate or actual expenses for deduction.

Current Standard Mileage Deduction Rate 

The IRS regularly updates its standard mileage deduction rate, so check to see what it is in the year you’re filing your taxes.For 2022, the rate is $.585 per mile driven for business use. To calculate how much you can deduct for your personal car being driven for business purposes, multiply that amount times the number of miles you drive for your company.

Where Do You Deduct Business Vehicle Expenses? 

Now that you’re on top of recording business-related vehicle expenses, where do you actually get your deduction for using a car for business purposes? If you work with an accountant, she’ll handle it. You’ll just need to provide your receipts for vehicle expenses if you’re claiming actual expenses, as well as your total and business-related mileage.If you file your own taxes, you’ll record this information on your Schedule C (Form 1040). Line 9 allows you to input expenses for cars and trucks. Section IV of the form will ask you questions about your business use of the car, including:
  • When you first used the vehicle for business purposes
  • How many of the total miles were business-related
  • Whether the vehicle was available for personal use during off-duty hours
  • Whether you or your spouse have another vehicle available for personal use
  • Whether you have evidence to support your deduction

What Expenses Can You Deduct if You Borrow a Vehicle for Your Business? 

Think borrowing a car disqualifies you from deducting vehicle expenses? Think again. Driving any car for business entitles you to deduct expenses like maintenance and gas, though you cannot deduct depreciation because you don’t own the vehicle.

Pros and Cons of Using Your Own Car for Business Use 

If you’re considering using a personal car for business, it’s important to consider the benefits and drawbacks.

Pros 

Having one car for two purposes saves money. If you use a car for work and then after work for personal errands, and don’t need more than that, why pay for two separate vehicles?We’ve covered the tax deductions you can take advantage of. They’re a huge perk of using a car for business and pleasure, and can reduce what you pay in taxes.Another benefit is that your company can cover some of the costs of maintaining and repairing your vehicle. This means less out-of-pocket expense for you personally.

Cons 

On the other hand, using any vehicle is an added expense for your business. If funds are tight, this may not be an expense you can afford, especially if you’re helping to cover large repair costs or registration fees.You’ll also have the headache of tracking miles for business. It’s easy to forget to turn on your tracking app or check the odometer, and then you’ll miss out on those mileage deduction opportunities!

Ways to Fund the Purchase of a Personal Car for Business 

If you’re considering buying a car that you’ll use for business and wonder if you should purchase it through your company, the first question to ask yourself is: Will the vehicle be used only for business? If not, if you plan to use it for personal activities as well, it’s better to buy it yourself than through your business.Even if you buy the car yourself, you can still deduct those business-related expenses or claim your standard mileage rate.If you don’t have the cash to pay for a car in your personal checking account, you may qualify for a car loan. 

A Word on Refinancing a Car Loan 

If you already own a car and are considering the pros and cons of refinancing a car, consider your reasons for wanting to refinance it. Are you able to get a lower rate and/or save money by refinancing? Are you struggling to make large monthly payments and looking to extend your loan period so you can reduce those payments? Is your car still worth more than you owe?These are all situations where refinancing a car loan—whether it’s for personal, business, or both—can be smart. Interest rates rise and fall, so you may be paying far more than you need to on an old loan. If your credit situation has improved since you first took out the loan, you may also qualify for a lower rate.Before moving forward with car loan refinancing, consider the total cost to refinance a car. You may have to pay an early termination or transaction fee with the old lender, as well as registration or title transfer fees when the loan is approved. If the fees are less than what you’ll save, by all means, consider refinancing.

The Takeaway  

Using a car for business and personal activities can be a smart move for many entrepreneurs. Get help finding auto loan refinancing so you may save money and take advantage of such tax deductions.
Photo credit: iStock/AzmanL
This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice. The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.SOLC1221061

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I buy a car for business use?
Where do you deduct business vehicle expenses?
What expenses can you deduct if you borrow a vehicle for your business?
What is the current standard mileage deduction rate?

About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory is the president of Egg Marketing, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. She enjoys writing about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.
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