IRS requirements for a mileage log

What does the IRS require as proof of mileage?  Your mileage log must include a record of: your mileage, the dates of your business trips, places you drove for business, the business purposes for your trip.  Additionally, the IRS wants to know the total number of miles you drove for business, commuting, and personal driving other than commuting.

The best way to keep your mileage log is to keep up with it every day you drive for business; this is called a contemporaneous mileage log.  The IRS recommends a contemporaneous mileage log but doesn’t require it.  If you are audited and can’t produce a written log, you are not entitled to any mileage deduction.

In an audit, the IRS will use an IDR (Information Document Request) for information needed.  A current IDR will ask for repair receipts and any other records to prove total mileage driven for the year.  Also, the IRS will want log books and other records verifying the business mileage claimed.

Fortunately, mileage logs can be reconstructed, and the IRS will accept them if they are adequate.  The IRS also requires evidence of the total miles driven for the entire tax year, which can be problematic for many people.

For some people, mileage logs can easily be reconstructed. One example would be an off duty police officer who worked security at the same location all year.  If he had an office in his home and had no commuting miles, he could simply circle the days he worked in his appointment book and multiply the days times the daily mileage.  Business receipts may also be used to help reconstruct a mileage log.

The log information should include current mileage reading, mileage reading on the vehicle when you acquired it, mileage reading for January 1 and December 31 of the year being audited, and mileage distance between your residence and your business location.  Additionally, bring an appointment book or calendar of your business activities during the year.

If you are audited and have good records for your other business deductions, try to show your records for your other items being audited first.  If your other records are good, the auditor is more likely to be lenient.

It can be beneficial to get an oil change near the end of the year so that the IRS knows approximately how many miles were driven each year.  The reason the IRS wants to know the total miles driven each year so that they know your business miles don’t exceed the total miles.  If you didn’t keep your maintenance receipts, CarFax is a service which provides a nationwide database that can be used to verify the mileage.

A mileage tracker app like MileIQ is an easy way to help provide what the IRS wants.  It logs your mileage for each trip end it can provide a mileage log that the IRS will accept.

David Zubler is a tax accountant in East Tennessee, the author of three books, and a philanthropist.  All of his proceeds from the books go to a charitable foundation he created for underprivileged children.  He is also the founder of Your Tax Care which provides tax education. David can be reached for questions and consultation at yourtaxcare.com.