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Running your Business – Tracking Mileage

When youre running your own photography business, taking photos is really only about 25% of your job. You also have to find time for editing, marketing, client meetings, website maintenance, and bookkeeping. Come tax time each April, you may be looking for a few deductions to cut your tax bill. If you use your own car for your business, its an eligible tax deduction. Its also one more thing to keep track of.

While I don’t run a photography-specific business, I am a professional freelancer. Ive done everything from small photo shoots, to single-camera live web streams all the way up to a several-camera video interviews in a penthouse in Las Vegas to a 10-camera live television broadcast on some of your favorite sports channels. And sometimes I feel like driving is what I do for a living.

In January 2016, I spent about 41 hours in my car driving over 3,000 miles to events all over the state of Florida. Thats roughly $1600 in mileage deductions. December 2015, I drove over 2,500 miles for business for another $1500 deduction. I enjoy math, but Im not a math genius. These are real numbersreal miles and real dollars saved that Ive tracked using MileIQ.

MileIQ is a app that runs in the background on my iPhone. Every drive, every time. You have to log both personal miles and business miles (according to the IRS) to build a complete travel log in case of an audit. After each drive, you can classify each drive as Personal or Business right from the app with a simple swipe.

What Counts as a Deduction?

  • Errands/supplies: Driving for business-related errands such as trips to the bank, office supply store or post office all qualify for a mileage deduction.
  • Business meals and entertainment: You might not realize it, but all of the trips you make to meet with clients or vendors for dinner, coffee, drinks, etc all qualify for a mileage deduction.
  • Airport/travel: The miles you drive to and from the airport for a business trip.
  • Customer visits: Driving from your office or other work site to meet with customers or clients for business at an office or job site qualifies for the standard mileage deduction.

But Wait

As a business owner, you have the option to deduct mileage or actual vehicle expenses. I personally think the mileage rate is better, and its easier to track. With actual expenses, you have to keep track of all the costs you incur for using your car throughout the year. This can include auto payments, gas, oil changes, maintenance, brakes, tires, etc. The list can go on and on. MileIQ has a great blog post comparing the mileage method or actual expense method here.

MileIQ automatically uses the current IRS mileage deduction rate. In 2015, it was 57.5 cents per mile. In 2016, it went down to 54 cents per mile. But you can also set your own rate as well. Then MileIQ will calculate how much money you can deduct after each trip.

Ive tried other apps that you manually start and stop for each trip, and they can be a pain. Over the summer, I let it run overnight because I forgot to shut it off. MileIQ is nice because I don’t have to think about it. It just works.

MileIQ is a paid service (which I happily paid for) at $59.99/year or $5.99/month. You can save 20% on an annual plan by using my referral link. MileIQ is available for iOS and Android.

// Featured Image courtesy of MileIQ

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