The IRS wants you to keep a “contemporaneous” mileage log. But, what does that actually mean? Let’s go over a recent court case to see what records you need to keep.

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What Does The Tax Court Want From A Mileage Log

You can’t create a mileage log  after you’re  audited. Sam Kilpatrick claimed he drove 8,867 miles for his business during 2009. He claimed a $4,477 mileage deduction.

Kilpatrick never kept a mileage log to record his business driving. When he was audited in 2011, he provided the IRS with a calendar with the dates he claimed to have driven for business circle and printouts from MapQuest.

The Tax Court found that these weren’t adequate records to substantiate his mileage deduction. It said that this “mileage log” was created over two years after the driving was supposed to have occurred. To pass muster with the IRS, a mileage log must be “made at or near the time” that the driving occurred.

The IRS wants you to keep a contemporaneous mileage log. You should aim to keep records daily. But, you should at least keep records weekly.  (Kilpatrick v. Comm’r, TC Memo 2016-166.)

Editor’s Note: An automatic mileage tracking app like MileIQ qualifies as a contemporaneous mileage log and records have been accepted by the IRS. 

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What The IRS Wants From Your Mileage Log

The IRS wants you to record:

  • Starting Odometer reading
  • Overall business, commuting and non-commuting personal mileage
  • Dates of your business trips
  • Places you drove for work
  • The business purpose of your trips.

Learn more about the IRS requirements for a mileage log here. The IRS does accept mileage logs created by apps like MileIQ. Some find it much easier to rely on a mileage tracking app like MileIQ because it’s automatically logging your trips for you.

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Stephen Fishman

Stephen Fishman

Stephen Fishman is a self-employed tax expert and regular contributor to MileIQ. He has dedicated his career as an attorney and author to writing useful, authoritative and recognized guides on taxes and business law for entrepreneurs, independent contractors, freelancers and other self-employed people. He is the author of over 20 books and hundreds of articles, and has been quoted in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and many other publications. Visit Fishman Law and Tax Files for more information on his work.
Stephen Fishman