From Business School 101
and Alamo Bookkeeping Associates
Alright, so now that you know you should be keeping track of your miles or your actual auto expenses, just how do you go about doing that?
Obviously, if you are going to use actual expenses (the hard way), then save your receipts and keep track of them in your bookkeeping. If you are going this route you will probably accumulate a lot of receipts, especially for gas.
If you are going to do it the easy way, that is, track your miles, then all you need is some type of journal to write this in, such as a calendar, notebook, etc. There are actual mileage log books available at office supply stores, but you don't really need one as a small calendar will do.
What are the things you should be noting in your journal or calendar?
1. The miles to/from the location you are doing business at. For instance, you are an interior decorator, so you have to travel to a house. The house is 15 miles away from your office. So you would track the 30 miles round trip. If you are traveling from your home to the office first, then going to the client's house, the miles to your office don't count. Those are considered commuting miles to your office. If you are going from your home to the client's office, those miles do count. Commuting to or from your home to your office is not a tax deductible expense.
2. The dates you traveled. This should be plain and simple. However as my personal experience has taught me, most business owners forget this part. They usually remember the trip, however they often can't remember when they took it. Sometimes they even confuse which year they took the trip. This is why you should keep a log, and write things down as they happen. Most of us can’t remember where/when we went this past week, much less months ago.
3. The purpose of your trip. For example, you went to a tradeshow about interior decorating in another city. You would note on your calendar, "trip for trade show". You went to a client's house to take measurements for curtains. You would note, "trip to client X’s house. "
Keeping this log will kill two birds with one stone, you have a record for yourself and for the IRS, should you need to provide proof.
Next- A tricky thing called office expense.