Mileage Logs for Taxes: What Are The IRS Requirements?

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Mileage Logs for Taxes: What Are The IRS Requirements?

Your mileage log and mileage logs can lead to significant savings through the mileage deduction. But, what does the IRS require in your documentation? See how your mileage log books can help you avoid an audit.

Mileage Log Book: What Does The IRS Accept?

There are often questions about what the IRS will accept when it comes to proof of mileage. The documentation can often have many names: mileage log, mileage log book, mileage sheets or mileage books. Whatever you call it, know the IRS will accept digital versions, as long as it has the information covered previous section.

We advise maintaining digital mileage sheets because you may have to keep this up to five years after you file a deduction. A physical mileage book can easily get lost or damaged, which may cause trouble down the road.

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Gasoline Log vs. Log for Mileage

Sometimes, people will combine their gasoline log and their mileage log. You may want to do this for a variety of reasons: tracking your monthly spending or figuring out your real fuel efficiency and how that relates to your costs. If you plan to take the mileage deduction, you don’t have to keep a gas logbook.

How To Keep Track of Mileage for Taxes?

According to the IRS, your mileage log must include a record of:

  • Your mileage
  • The dates of your business trips
  • The places you drove for business
  • The business purposes for your trips.

The IRS also wants to know the total number of miles you drove during the year for business, commuting, and personal driving other than commuting.

By far the best way to prove to the IRS how much you drove for business is to keep contemporaneous records. “Contemporaneous” means your records are created each day you drive for business, or soon thereafter.

A mileage tracker app like MileIQ may be one of the easiest ways to provide what the IRS wants. It automatically tracks, logs and calculate your mileage for each trip. It can also provide a mileage log that can stand up to IRS scrutiny.

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Common Errors For Mileage Log Books

There are many facts & myths about the mileage deduction. We’ve included a few mistakes people have made while using mileage logbooks below. Some of the common errors you see in a vehicle mileage log are:

  • Not including the business purpose
  • Using estimates instead of proper documentation
  • Errors from either negligence or just mistakes.

Remember, you don’t need to record your odometer reading with each trip but you do need proper documentation. Here are some mistakes that recently hit the Tax Court and led to

Vehicle Milage Log Mistakes To Avoid

Jim Chapin, a California real estate broker, used his Toyota Sequoia SUV for his real estate business. He figured he drove a total of 11,135 miles for business one recent year. He deducted $5,309 for car expenses. The IRS audited him and disallowed the entire deduction. Not only that, it also added a 20 percent negligence penalty.

Jim appealed to the Tax Court and lost. Jim did not keep a detailed log of his drives each day, week, or month. He didn’t have a mileage tracker automatically creating records. He instead created a handwritten log when he learned the IRS was auditing him.

Jim also had an itemized list for the costs of fuel, insurance, parts and more. Yet, these lists didn’t include business purpose for the trips, nor reported the mileage traveled or the amount of each trip expense. The Tax Court found these records weren’t enough and denied his entire $5,309 deduction. (Chapin v. Comm’r, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-31.)

Mileage Log Book Mistake #2: Not Keeping The Right Info

David Garza did a better job than Jim of creating his log. He kept records in a calendar planner book. He’d record his truck’s odometer readings at the start and end of each month. Some other months would including more readings and some wouldn’t. It wasn’t as consistent as a mileage tracker that logged all of his miles.

The calendar planner also had some personal notes, but didn’t include other vehicle expense info. David did not record any of his personal travel in the calendar.

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David claimed that he drove over 40,000 miles for business in 2010. This resulted in a $20,085 deduction. The IRS and Tax Court denied his entire deduction. His calendar was not a reliable substantiation for his claimed mileage expenses. The Tax Court said this mileage log needed the time, business purpose or other costs. (Garza v. Comm’r., T.C. Memo. 2014-121.)

Mileage Logs for Taxes: Details Matter

Even a mileage logbook that on its face looks pretty good may not pass IRS muster. A good case in point is Mr. and Mrs. Moore, who operated a real estate brokerage business in Texas. They each kept a mileage logbook consisting of 12 pages, one page for each month of the year.

Each page contained entries for each day of the month, including odometer readings, miles driven (sometimes designated as “commuting” and sometimes as “business”), and the purpose for the trips. The Moore’s each typically drove over 100 miles per day for their business and claimed a total $31,840 mileage deduction for the year in question.

Unfortunately, the IRS and Tax Court denied their deduction. The Court said that the logbooks were not reliable because they contained too many errors and questionable entries. For example, they did not contain the name of a single person the Moores claimed to have visited for their business.

Instead, the business purpose of their driving was stated in general terms, such as “OPEN–Review Task Log–Close Office” or “OPEN–Review Contract–Close,” or “Open–Update Website–Close.” (Moore v. Comm’r, TC Summ. Op. 2012-16.)

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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

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MileIQ’s blog does not constitute professional tax advice. You should contact your own tax professional to discuss your situation.

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  • Scartaris

    Stephen, doesn’t the IRS require you to log the beginning and ending mileage for reach entry? If I’m not mistaken, MileIQ does not do this, so technically it wouldn’t be IRS compliant. Am I missing something?

    • Joshua Brost

      Hi there-
      This is one on the biggest misunderstandings about the mileage deduction. The IRS only requires you to provide your odometer reading at the start and end of the year. They then require you to provide a log of the total business, commuting and “other” miles you drive.

      • Val Lusis

        Hi Joshua,
        What happens when both, my wife and I are using the car? While I’m driving MileIQ logs all the mileage, but while my wife drives, there will be gaps in in mileage as far as odometer readings go.

        • Joshua Brost

          Hi Val-
          That shouldn’t be a problem if she’s just using it for personal. At the end of the year, the IRS wants a detailed log of all of your business drives, plus the mile you’ve driven for commute and personal. You should be able to just add her drives to the “personal” total you report to the IRS.

      • Dean Eng

        Joshua, I look at the publication IRS 463 and the table 5-3 which is a mileage table for business driving has an Odometer “start” and “stop” for each trip one takes. Where is stated in the IRS material that they only require the reading at the beginning and ending of the year? This is my biggest obstacle of using

        • Stephen Schink

          There is nothing in the IRS Regulations or the Internal Revenue Code that requires odometer starting and ending readings for each trip. What is important is that you have the beginning and end of year odometer readings and it would help corroborate evidence if you had a few repair bills showing odometer readings during the year. I am a CPA and I use MileIQ and recommend it to my clients who have trouble remembering to keep a paper log. IRS is looking for a contemporaneous record, and MileIQ fits the bill. Date, number of miles, location and business purpose are the things that are important. MileIQ can do all of those things. I may sound like a commercial, but I have no connection to MileIQ other than the fact that I use it and I try to get my clients to use it when they can’t seem to keep handwritten mileage logs!

      • tommytx

        I beg your pardon.. have you looked at the irs log example.. they want odometer start and stop readings for every single trip.
        you can google “IRS mileage log” if you are unaware what the IRS demands..

        • Joshua Brost

          Hi, Tommy-

          Thanks for writing. The example on the IRS website is not an official IRS form, simply an example log that some folks might want to use if keeping a hand written log. If you take a look at this article on the IRS website, you can see that they don’t require odometer readings for each trip.

          We’ve worked with many CPAs, tax attorneys and even a former IRS auditor to ensure MileIQ contains all of the information (more in fact) that users will need to claim their deduction.

  • Crystal M. Turner

    Now you say total personal and commuting miles, but do they want those miles actually logged daily, or can you provide a summary for the year? I always keep accurate and detailed information on my business miles, but I do not do so for my personal miles. I have proof of how many miles have been on my odometer for a few points in the year, as when I get auto service. Can I just subtract the business miles from my total miles and provide the excess as personal miles? I have no commute for anything other than business.

    • Joshua Brost

      Hi, Crystal-
      As always, you want to talk to your tax preparer to be sure. I think, in theory, you’re able to subtract those numbers from your business mileage. However, differentiating between your commute and personal in that way is going to be tricky. Did you remember to account for the day you drove to the office twice? Or remember that you took a Wednesday off 6 months ago and to account for not having a commute that day, etc??? It’s probably easier to just track your drives automatically and classify as business or persona or personal-commuting as you go and not have to worry about it.

  • Alisha Villard

    What should I do if I’m just now learning to keep mileage? Is it too late to track it now? Also, What if I use two vehicles, off and on for business?

    • Marin

      Hi Alisha, unfortunately, it is likely too late to get every single business mile but you can recalculate some of the longer trips that you have documentation for. I’d suggest downloading MileIQ and start tracking as soon as you can. Because MileIQ is on your phone, you can easily take it into different vehicles, just switch which car profile you’re using. This article may be of some help:

  • Chichi Hermosa

    I take my taxes to my tax preparer to e-file. I have a rental business; so I have deductions. I always get around 45 t0 50 pages for my LLC and my 1040. For 2015, which he filed on 2/05/2016, he asked me for the miles, but he did not deduct them I signed thinking, he had already deducted that amount; and when I got home to check and file 2015 taxes, I realized, he had not done the deduction. Please, let me know how can I solve this problem? Of course, I will not go back to him. I can do a better job
    myself, which I have done for 20 yrs. without mistakes.

    • Brandy

      You can file an amended return for 2015. Look up Bennett Thompson Accounting Services in Van Buren, Arkansas. They have clients all over the world and will review your 2015 return and file an amended return, making sure all available deductions are utilized.

  • Mark

    I am a satellite installation contractor. My home is my business address and where I keep my records, supplies, and make calls to verify my work for the day. Each first job is a new location. Is the drive to that first job commuting? Thanks!

    • Marin

      Hi Mark
      As always, you’re going to want to double check with your tax professional. With that said, if you have a qualifying home office, that first drive should not be considered commuting and should be eligible for the mileage deduction. You can read more about the home office deduction and the impact it has on the commuting rule here:

  • Tiffany Dunn

    If I drive to meet someone to deliver a product, I count those miles as business. However, do I count the miles driving back home? Especially if that was the only reason I left that day?

    • Marin

      Hi Tiffany, as always, consult with a tax pro before making any tax-related filings. Unless you have a qualifying home office, the drive back home would be considered commuting and is not deductible.

  • Gray_CPA

    How much personal information from the smartphone does this app take from the phone and store on their personal servers?

    • Marin Perez

      Hi Gray, please know that MileIQ is dedicated to protecting your privacy. Our focus is on providing the best user experience possible, including peace of mind. That includes not having to worry about keeping a mileage log but also not having to worry about what we’re doing with your data.

      Our full privacy policy can be found here:

    • Marin

      Hey there, sorry for the late response. MileIQ is a wholly-owned Microsoft subsidiary, so we adhere to the Microsoft Privacy Statement. You can learn more about it here:

  • Brandy

    How would the following drive be classified:
    Home office
    2nd office
    Grocery store (non-business purchases)
    2nd office
    Dinner at a restaurant by myself
    Home office

    Obviously the personal trip to the store would not be counted as business use, but what about the stop for dinner and the return home at the end of the day? Business or personal?

  • Bryan Keil

    We just map all trips with google maps and use that mileage as the trip mileage. This leaves us at a disadvantage if the trip is rerouted due to traffic and takes more miles. But if there are any other errands that need to be run during this trip, they are not counted as business miles. All other information is on the spreadsheet, but the miles come from Google Maps. It would also be so easy to make up starting and ending miles at any time, so why would this even matter to the IRS. Personal trips are just all the miles that are not accounted for as business miles. Also, all the miles might be on different vehicles with no rhyme or reason why except preference. This method does not get me all the miles that i might be due, but the time that it saves is worth it. Why would the IRS be against this method, as they are the ones gaining at the end of the year. This all seems to make perfect sense, so the IRS just might not accept it.

    • Marin

      Hi Bryan,
      You bring up some interesting points and while I’m not a tax professional, I think I can shed some light on these. The mileage deduction is often scrutinized because many taxpayers can take advantage of it. I believe these requirements are in place to create some barrier of entry. The IRS also wants to know your commuting miles too, so it’s not just as simple as subtracting your business miles from the rest of your mileage.

      Is it a pain? Yes. That’s why millions of people have turned to MileIQ. It’s a simple way to make sure you’re ready for the IRS and capturing every mile you’re eligible for.

  • Dave

    I have a home office and I use my vehicle for business purposes once or twice a week. Can I just record on a mileage log my business trips with all the required info, but not any of my personal trips?

  • Marin

    I think Stephen is saying that even the seemingly-simple requirements can run into issues when the IRS breaks out its fine-toothed comb.

  • I have a question. I use one my wife’s car for personal. I dedicate my car for work. Obviously sometimes it is used for personal for errands on the way home. Is it alright if i just logged all of the miles for that one car. They don’t need to know all of the personal miles my wife and I use her car for right?


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