Does IRS Require Odometer Readings of Every Trip in Your Mileage Log?

Does IRS Require Odometer Readings of Every Trip in Your Mileage Log?

Does IRS Require Odometer Readings? Depending on your situation, there can be different requirements, legal or otherwise, for record-keeping when it comes to your mileage log. In this article, we will review if it is a requirement of IRS to provide your odometer readings.

Does IRS Require Odometer Readings

IRS mileage tracking requirements

IRS regulations and guidance provide that to qualify for the mileage deduction you are required to have a record of four facts when you drive your car for business:

You should have a written record of these facts made at or near the time the car was driven (at least weekly). This record can be an old-fashioned paper mileage log, but IRS regulations specifically provide that “a record of the business use… [of an] automobile, prepared in a computer memory device with the aid of a logging program will constitute an adequate record.” (IRS Reg. 1.274-5T(c)(2)(C)(2).)

You do not have to have your car’s odometer readings. This is nowhere in the tax law, IRS regulations, IRS publications or elsewhere is there any requirement. All that is required is an adequate written record of the distance you drove.

Which formats does the IRS accept?

Paper, diary, account book, digital spreadsheets, CSV files, PDF files, Xlsx (Microsoft’s Excel) are all accepted by the IRS. In other words, the format does not matter as long as the right records are present (see “Adequate records” above).

The IRS actually provides a paper template, but it is from a time before electronic mileage logs. We do not recommend that you try to keep records by hand, mostly due to how tedious it can get.

Your employer should inform you which records they need, and include the formats that they can process.

When can I use the standard mileage rate?

You can use the standard mileage rate if:

  • If you own or lease your vehicle,
  • You use the vehicle in your business,
  • You’re not using 2 or more vehicles at the same time,
  • You have not claimed actual expenses on the vehicle earlier, and
  • You keep track of your business miles.

Does the IRS require odometer readings every trip?

It is a myth that the IRS requires you to record your odometer at the beginning and end of your trips. There’s currently nothing in the law that requires you to log odometer readings except for the beginning and the end of each year, and when you start using a new vehicle. However, do keep in mind that your employer might ask you to record odometer readings more frequently.

What are the Mileage Tracking Requirements?

There are no requirements for how you track your mileage as such, except that you have to record the mileage of each trip. That means either

  1. recording the odometer at the beginning and end of the trip, or
  2. Tracking/recording your trips differently, for instance using your phone or a GPS.

The easiest way is probably to use a mileage app. There’s a whole range of apps that are designed to solve the exact problem of tracking and recording your mileage. You can sort for and use one of them.

Do I Also Need to Log Personal Trips?

If you drive the vehicle(s) for personal use as well, you also need to be able to prove the portion of use that is for business. You work this out as a percentage of miles driven for both business and personal use. That means keeping a log of all trips and then calculating the share used for business.

For How long Should I Keep Records?

For How long Should I Keep Records?

It depends. That’s the best short answer we can give. The IRS states that: “Generally, this means you must keep records that support your deduction (or an item of income) for 3 years from the date you file the income tax return on which the deduction is claimed.”

The IRS also reminds us that a return filed early is considered filed on the due date. Keep in mind that different rules apply if your employer is relative.

What are the Standard Mileage Rates

For 2020, the standard mileage rates are:

  • 57.5 cents per mile for business
  • 17 cents per mile for medical
  • 14 cents per mile for charity

What are the standard mileage rates for 2020, 2019, and prior years?

Year Rate per mile Dates covered
2020 57.5 cents 1/01/20-12/31/20
2019 58 cents 1/01/19-12/31/19
2018 54.5 cents 1/01/18-12/31/18
2017 53.5 cents 1/01/17-12/31/17
2016 54 cents 1/01/16-12/31/16
2015 57.5 cents 1/01-15-12/31/15
2014 56 cents 1/01/14-12/31/14
2013 56 cents 1/01/13-12/31/13
2012 55.5 cents 1/01/12-12/31/12
2011 51 cents 1/01/11-12/31/11

The standard mileage rate is set by the IRS every year and this is the deductible rate for your drives.

Bottom Line

Bottom Line

It is necessary for you to prove your business mileage as required by the law. However, the IRS does not require odometer readings for every trip except the beginning and end of the year.

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