The IRS announced that the standard mileage rate will decrease to 53.5 cents per business mile driven in 2017.  That is a decrease of approximately 1% from the 54 cents allowed in 2016.  According to the IRS, “The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile.”

When you use your car for business, driving between job sites is deductible.  So is driving between your home and a temporary job site (where you will work for a year or less), job interviews, and conferences.  Commuting between your home and a regular place of business generally isn’t tax deductible.

Standard Mileage Rates Versus Actual Expenses

There are two ways for you to calculate your automobile expenses.  You can either claim $.53.5 per business mile driven in 2017 (decreased from $.54 for 2016), or you can base your deduction on the percentage of miles your car was driven for business purposes multiplied by the actual costs incurred during the year.  Allowable costs include gas, insurance, repairs, parking at home, and either your lease payments, or if you own your car, a factor for depreciation.

Generally, unless you drive your car relatively few miles each year with most of those miles being allowable business miles, you’re often times better off over time by basing your deduction on the standard mileage rate.

For Example

Let’s say you lease a car for $400 a month that you drive only 3,000 total miles during the year.  And of those miles, 2,000 qualify as deductible business miles.  By calculating your deduction based on the standard mileage rate, you’ll end up with a deduction of just $1,070 (2,000 business miles * $.535 per mile).

What would your deduction be based on the actual expenses incurred, assuming you spend $1,200 on insurance, $.10 per mile driven for gas, and $1,200 on parking at home?  Based on $7,500 of total automobile expenses (including the lease payments), multiplied by two-thirds (2,000 business miles divided by 3,000 total miles), your allowable deduction for your automobile expenses jumps to $5,000 – almost five times the $1,070 allowed using the standard mileage rate.

Now let’s see what happens if you drive 20,000 total miles during the year.   Assuming your allowable business miles remains at 2,000, you can either claim an automobile deduction of $1,070 based on the standard mileage rate, or $920 based on one-tenth (2,000 business miles divided by 20,000 total miles) of your actual automobile expenses incurred.

Expense 3,000
total miles
total miles
Lease payments $4,800 $4,800
Insurance $1,200 $1,200
Gas ($.10 per mile driven) $300 $2,000
Parking at home $1,200 $1,200
Total costs $7,500 $9,200
Business use % on 2,000
business miles driven
66.67% 10%
Allowable deduction for
auto expenses based
on actual expenses
$5,000 $920

How to Claim The Deduction

Taxpayers who are compensated as employees generally will claim their deductible automobile expenses as an unreimbursed employee business expense. These type expenses are reported on a Form 2106and are deducted as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on theSchedule A.  Keep in mind that miscellaneous itemized deductions are only allowable to the extent they exceed 2% of your income, and are not allowable when calculating the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).

Those taxpayers compensated as independent contractors will generally claim their allowable automobile expenses directly against their self-employment income. For these taxpayers, automobile expenses should be reported the Schedule C.

Moving, Medical and Charitable Miles

The use of an automobile in connection with a charitable activity is set by statute and is deductible at a rate of 14 cents per mile in 2017 and should be reported with other charitable contributions as an itemized deduction of the Schedule A. 

You’ll deduct any mileage driven in connection with a qualified move at a rate of 17 cents per mile in 2017, down from 19 cents per mile in 2016 and 23 cents per mile in 2015, and should report that mileage along with your other allowable expenses on a Form 3903, Moving Expenses.

And don’t forget that medical related mileage is also deductible.  For 2017, medical mileage is allowable at 17 cents per mile, and should be reported with all other medical expenses on the Schedule A.

Why lower rates for medical and charitable mileage? According to the IRS, “The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs”, but omits the fixed costs allowed when calculating the business standard mileage rate.

Additional info and links is available at IR-2016-169, Dec.13, 2016

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