How to Claim Personal Vehicle Use for Taxes

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If you use your personal vehicle for business, you may be entitled to a write-off for the expenses incurred when using your personal car or truck on the job. But even though the IRS allows this type of deduction, it is important to keep careful records and be able to back up everything you are claiming. Excessive claims for personal vehicle use can sometimes trigger an audit flag, so it is important that all business use of your personal vehicle be fully documented.

Dedicate a single credit card to pay for all vehicle-related expenses. If you are planning to take a deduction for the use of your personal vehicle, it is essential that you fully document all expenses related to your vehicle. Dedicating a single credit card to your vehicle, and only your vehicle, will make it much easier to track those expenses.

Keep a detailed daily log of all of your vehicle use. You can keep a simple notebook on your car's dashboard or in the glove compartment, making it easy to keep this daily diary. Be sure that each day's entry includes the number of miles driven, the purpose of the trip and the vehicle's current total mileage.

Log on to the IRS website to determine the current mileage reimbursement rate. The level of reimbursement for each mile driven will change from year to year, based on the price of fuel and other factors, so it is important to check the current reimbursement level before you file your taxes. For tax year 2010, the standard mileage reimbursement rate for business is 50 cents per mile; the rate for 2011 has been raised to 51 cents per mile.

Gather all of your vehicle-related receipts together before you file your taxes. It is important to separate those expenses out according to the percentage of personal vs. business use on your vehicle. You can use your mileage log to break out the amount of personal use and the amount of business use for your car or truck.

Log on to your computer and use your favorite tax preparation software package to start your tax return. A good software preparation package like Turbo Tax, Tax Act or Tax Cut will ask you simple questions related to your business expenses, including vehicle use; use your answers to fill out the appropriate tax forms.