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April 26, 2022 - 2 min read

IRS mileage log requirements

Depending on your situation, you might have to adhere to different IRS mileage log requirements, legal or otherwise, in order to keep compliant records.

Your employer might have specific requirements for mileage reporting, and the IRS also has rules that apply to business owners and self-employed.

In this article, we look at mileage logging from both the perspective of an employee and the self-employed.

The IRS defines adequate records

Regardless of the circumstances of your employment, you will likely be asked to record the following:

  • the mileage for each business use
  • the total mileage for the year
  • the time (date will do), place (your destination), and business purpose of each trip
  • odometer readings at the start and end of the year

You can learn more about the IRS mileage log requirements (scroll to table 5.2 for an example) when it comes to logging business mileage.

It is also required that the record is timely. This means that it must be made at or near the time of the trip - anything that is updated weekly is considered good enough. 

If you're self-employed or a business owner, you need to adhere to the IRS's definition of adequate records. Keep in mind that the rules cover all transportation-related expenses.

Mileage log formats accepted by the IRS

Paper, diary, account book, digital spreadsheets, CSV files, PDF files, Xlsx (Microsoft Excel) are all accepted by the IRS. In other words, the format does not matter as long as the right records are present (see "Adequate records" above).

The IRS provides a paper template for logging mileage, but manual trip logging is now largely considered an outdated way of keeping mileage records.

As an employed person, your employer should inform you which records they need and the formats that they can process.

Does the IRS require odometer readings?

It is a myth that the IRS requires you to record your odometer at the beginning and end of your trips.

There's currently nothing in the law that requires you to log odometer readings except for the beginning and the end of each year, and when you start using a new vehicle.

However, do keep in mind that your employer might ask you to record odometer readings more frequently.

IRS mileage tracking requirements

There are no requirements for how you track your mileage, except that you have to record the mileage of each trip. That means either

  1. recording the odometer at the beginning and end of the trip, or
  2. tracking/recording your trips differently, for instance using a GPS device or a mileage tracking mobile application.

The easiest way to satisfy the IRS mileage tracking requirements is to use a mileage tracking app. There's a range of apps that are designed to simplify tracking and recording your mileage in a compliant manner, such as Driversnote. Driversnote works for iOS and Android and for both self-employed and employed individuals.

Does the IRS require that I track personal mileage too?

If you drive your vehicle(s) for both business and personal purposes, you need to be able to prove the business portion of use. You work this out as a percentage of miles driven for both business and personal use. That means keeping a log of all trips and then calculating the share used for business.

Keeping copies of mileage records as an employee

As an employee, you might be asked to prove your expenses to the IRS (which can include mileage for various reasons) down the line. This can happen due to no fault of yours, so it is generally a good idea to keep copies.

Using a digital mileage log and tracker makes it more likely that you will have adequate records available if needed. The Driversnote app is an example of a compliant mileage log and tracker which allows you to have all your records in one place and generate a report whenever you need it.

If you get audited

If you get audited the IRS can ask for mileage logs, which are accepted in any of the abovementioned formats.

To speed up the process and avoid errors, be sure to order your mileage logs and records at least by year. We also recommend you log your trips at least once a week to make sure you do not miss out on any reimbursement.

FAQ

In short, you have to keep a mileage log that demonstrates the following: The distance traveled: the number of miles driven for each work trip. The date and time of each trip. The location: each business trip's final destination. The post above provides detailed information on what you need.
It is possible for you to get audited but it is rare. In any case, if it does, you would want to be prepared by making sure your mileage logs are accurate and up to date at all times. A mileage tracking and logging app can help you with that by automatically tracking all your trips.
No, if you use the standard rates method, you can only claim mileage. To claim gas, you need to use the actual expense method, under which you cannot also claim reimbursement for your mileage.

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.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, legal, tax or accounting advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal, tax or accounting advisor.