Standard Mileage Rate

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Standard Mileage Rate

You may be able to use the standard mileage rate to figure the deductible costs of operating your car for business purposes. For 2011, the standard mileage rate for the cost of operating your car for business use is 51 cents per mile before July 1, 2011. After June 30, 2011, the business mileage rate increases to 55½ cents per mile.

If you use the standard mileage rate for a year, you cannot deduct your actual car expenses for that year. You cannot deduct depreciation, lease payments, maintenance and repairs, gasoline (including gasoline taxes), oil, insurance, or vehicle registration fees. See Choosing the standard mileage rate and Standard mileage rate not allowed, later.

You generally can use the standard mileage rate whether or not you are reimbursed and whether or not any reimbursement is more or less than the amount figured using the standard mileage rate. See chapter 6 for more information on reimbursements.

Choosing the standard mileage rate. If you want to use the standard mileage rate for a car you own, you must choose to use it in the first year the car is available for use in your business. Then in later years, you can choose to use either the standard mileage rate or actual expenses.

If you want to use the standard mileage rate for a car you lease, you must use it for the entire lease period. For leases that began on or before December 31, 1997, the standard mileage rate must be used for the entire portion of the lease period (including renewals) that is after 1997.

You must make the choice to use the standard mileage rate by the due date (including extensions) of your return. You cannot revoke the choice. However, in later years, you can switch from the standard mileage rate to the actual expenses method. If you change to the actual expenses method in a later year, but before your car is fully depreciated, you have to estimate the remaining useful life of the car and use straight line depreciation.

Example.

Larry is an employee who occasionally uses his own car for business purposes. He purchased the car in 2009, but he did not claim any unreimbursed employee expenses on his 2009 tax return. Because Larry did not use the standard mileage rate the first year the car was available for business use, he cannot use the standard mileage rate in 2011 to claim unreimbursed employee business expenses.

For more information about depreciation included in the standard mileage rate, see Exception under Methods of depreciation under Depreciation Deduction, later.

Standard mileage rate not allowed. You cannot use the standard mileage rate if you:
  • Use five or more cars at the same time (as in fleet operations),

  • Claimed a depreciation deduction for the car using any method other than straight line, for example, MACRS (as discussed later under Depreciation Deduction),

  • Claimed a section 179 deduction (discussed later) on the car,

  • Claimed the special depreciation allowance on the car,

  • Claimed actual car expenses after 1997 for a car you leased, or

  • Are a rural mail carrier who received a qualified reimbursement. (See Rural mail carriers , earlier.)

Note.

Beginning in 2011, you can elect to use the standard mileage rate if you used a car for hire (such as a taxi). However, if you use five or more cars at the same time (as in fleet operations) then you cannot elect to use the standard mileage rate.

Five or more cars. If you own or lease five or more cars that are used for business at the same time, you cannot use the standard mileage rate for the business use of any car. However, you may be able to deduct your actual expenses for operating each of the cars in your business. See Actual Car Expenses , later, for information on how to figure your deduction.

You are not using five or more cars for business at the same time if you alternate using (use at different times) the cars for business.

The following examples illustrate the rules for when you can and cannot use the standard mileage rate for five or more cars.

Example 1.

Marcia, a salesperson, owns three cars and two vans that she alternates using for calling on her customers. She can use the standard mileage rate for the business mileage of the three cars and the two vans because she does not use them at the same time.

Example 2.

Tony and his employees use his four pickup trucks in his landscaping business. During the year, he traded in two of his old trucks for two newer ones. Tony can use the standard mileage rate for the business mileage of all six of the trucks he owned during the year.

Example 3.

Chris owns a repair shop and an insurance business. He and his employees use his two pickup trucks and van for the repair shop. Chris alternates using his two cars for the insurance business. No one else uses the cars for business purposes. Chris can use the standard mileage rate for the business use of the pickup trucks, van, and the cars because he never has more than four vehicles used for business at the same time.

Example 4.

Maureen owns a car and four vans that are used in her housecleaning business. Her employees use the vans, and she uses the car to travel to various customers. Maureen cannot use the standard mileage rate for the car or the vans. This is because all five vehicles are used in Maureen's business at the same time. She must use actual expenses for all vehicles.

Interest. If you are an employee, you cannot deduct any interest paid on a car loan. This applies even if you use the car 100% for business as an employee.

However, if you are self-employed and use your car in your business, you can deduct that part of the interest expense that represents your business use of the car. For example, if you use your car 60% for business, you can deduct 60% of the interest on Schedule C (Form 1040). You cannot deduct the part of the interest expense that represents your personal use of the car.

If you use a home equity loan to purchase your car, you may be able to deduct the interest. See Publication 936, Home Mortgage Interest Deduction, for more information.

Personal property taxes. If you itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), you can deduct on line 7 state and local personal property taxes on motor vehicles. You can take this deduction even if you use the standard mileage rate or if you do not use the car for business.

If you are self-employed and use your car in your business, you can deduct the business part of state and local personal property taxes on motor vehicles on Schedule C, Schedule C-EZ, or Schedule F (Form 1040). If you itemize your deductions, you can include the remainder of your state and local personal property taxes on the car on Schedule A (Form 1040).

Parking fees and tolls. In addition to using the standard mileage rate, you can deduct any business-related parking fees and tolls. (Parking fees you pay to park your car at your place of work are nondeductible commuting expenses.)

Sale, trade-in, or other disposition. If you sell, trade in, or otherwise dispose of your car, you may have a gain or loss on the transaction or an adjustment to the basis of your new car. See Disposition of a Car , later.