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How to keep an IRS compliant mileage log book
November 23, 2021 - 5 min read

How to keep an IRS compliant mileage log book

Keeping a compliant mileage log book can be the difference between you getting in trouble or passing with flying colors a potential IRS audit. You need a log book if you ever drive your personal vehicle for business purposes. If you sometimes use your car to meet a client, go to a conference, get supplies for your office or similar, then you would likely be able to get reimbursement for those trips. That is where a mileage log book comes in and helps you receive the reimbursement you are entitled to.

What is a mileage log book?

Mileage log books are helpful for tracking distances traveled for work purposes. A logbook can help you deduct expenses from your tax payments, whether you are self-employed, an employee, or own a small business. 

Why keep an automobile mileage log book?

If you don't have a logbook and the IRS audits you, the IRS may reject your claims for automobile vehicle costs. You can ensure that the IRS has no excuse not to reimburse you the amount you are entitled to, by following our mileage log advice. According to the IRS, keeping a logbook is the most effective strategy to ensure that you have proof in the event of an audit.

Standard IRS log book requirements 

Regardless of your employment situation, you will almost certainly be asked to keep track of the following:

  • total mileage for the year.
  • mileage for each business use
  • time (the day will suffice)
  • place (your destination) and
  • purpose

It is also necessary that the record be kept up to date. This implies that it must be completed at or near the time of departure. Anything that is updated once a week is considered sufficient.

Where can I buy a mileage log book? 

You can buy a regular mileage log book either online or at most office supply shops for as little as $5. However, it is not necessary for you to buy a logbook as you can use an Excel, PDF, spreadsheet, or a free mileage log app. Nowadays, it is becoming more common for people to log their trips digitally in order to avoid losing their data and make sure they are as compliant as possible. 

An Excel or Spreadsheet log book is an excellent choice as it will allow you to keep your data safely online and will save you time compared to the regular physical log book. However, there is still a lot of manual work involved, as you must log the data yourself and make sure you have tracked the correct mileage for each trip. You can check out our free mileage log template here to see if it is the right fit for you. 

A mileage logging/tracking app is a common solution nowadays since it is the most time-efficient. By using an application, you can automatically track your trips and have your data ready for you. How it works is that after you have logged a couple of your trips, you only have to go to the app and confirm which was a business trip and which one was personal. Then, at the click of a button, the app will generate a report that you can send over directly to your employer or accountant. Here is what people who use an app as their logbook say:

mileage reimbursement timeline infographic

 

How detailed should my log book be?

Although you should not be spending an overwhelming amount of time on keeping a mileage log book, we do believe you should aim to have it as detailed as possible. Make sure to follow all rules described here and you should have no problems receiving your reimbursement.

If you are worried about how time-consuming all of this would be, how many details your log book should include, what specific proof you need of your trips, and any other questions, you can contact us at support@driversnote.com and we will help you out.

Log book tips 

  • Don't skip a day - if you want to be sure that all of your logs are correct, you should verify every day if you have properly logged or tracked your trips.
  • Instead of using an Excel sheet or a physical log book, use a logbook app to save time.
  • Always log personal trips too - you need to be able to show the percentage of business trips out of all your trips.
  • Keep your logs for at least 3-4 years so that you are able to provide proof in case of an audit.
  • Don't be afraid to inquire! If there's something you're not sure about, ask someone who does. You can reach out to us at Driversnote at support@driversnote.com or directly to the IRS.

Check out our updated IRS mileage guide for additional information on how to keep an IRS compliant log book and all IRS regulations for 2021 and 2022.

Keep in mind that this is a general overview of how to use your log book. The information here should be supplemented with information from your accountant, employer and the official IRS website. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.

FAQ about keeping a log book 

1. How does a business keep record of mileage?

A paper mileage notebook, a spreadsheet on a computer, or using a mileage tracking tool like Driversnote are all acceptable options. For many years, the only way to keep track of mileage was to keep a paper log but nowadays most people opt out for using an app.

2. How do you make a mileage log sheet?

If you want to make your own sheet - it is quite simple. Just go to Excel or Google sheets and make space on the top for your odometer readings. Then follow these steps: 

  • Add a column for your start and end address
  • Add a column for miles driven
  • Add a column for the reimbursement and find the right formula you need to calculate this. 

Check out our Excel sheet for inspiration on creating your mileage log sheet. Keep in mind this option is a lot more time consuming than using an app. 

3. Will I show my log if I get audited for mileage?

Yes! If you get audited you will likely have to present your filled out mileage log to the IRS. To avoid issues, make sure to fill out your log at least once a week. 

How to automate your mileage logbook

Manually filling out your logbook can get tedious - see how to automatically track trips for your mileage reimbursement or deductions.
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