One of the most tiring chores for a business is keeping all required records related to a vehicle and business travel. These records are needed for tax and financial purposes. For taxes, the law is very specific on the records you’re required to keep if you want to deduct your expenses. Anything you can do to save yourself and your staff time and effort without risking write-offs is welcome.

1. Use an app
If you use a personal vehicle for business, you usually need an odometer reading for each business trip to show the portion of vehicle usage for business. This means jotting down the odometer reading at the start and end of each trip to see a customer, go to the bank, or visit a vendor. But this can be automated for you if you use an app designed for vehicle recordkeeping. The GPS on your mobile device reads the exact travel distance for each trip, noting the time and date. You only have to add to this record the purpose of the trip. What’s more, you can find an app that ties into your other accounting system (QuickBooks has its own app) to further simplify tax return preparation.

You can also use an app to keep track of your travel expenses while away on business. Be sure to check on all of the required information needed to deduct these expenses in IRS Publication 463.

2. Rely on sampling
IRS regulations permit you to use a recordkeeping method called sampling. This means if you have adequate records for a part of the year, you can extrapolate the results for the full year. For example, if you keep good records for the first week of each month that show that 65% of the use of your pickup is for business purposes, and your invoices and bills show the same business pattern for the rest of each month, you can treat this partial record as proof of 65% business use for the entire year. Similarly, you can keep records for one full month as proof of the full year’s vehicle usage, as long as the month is representative of your driving pattern for the year.

3. Scan receipts
Instead of saving scraps of paper, hotel printouts, and other written evidence of costs related to business travel, just scan them into your mobile device. Make sure you have a scanner app on your device.

The challenge with scanning receipts is to have a system for organizing them so they can be readily retrieved if or when needed.

4. Forget receipts
When you travel or are out and about in town on business, you don’t need to retain receipts if the cost of the expense is less than $75. For example, on an out-of-town business trip if you take a taxi from the airport to your hotel at a cost of $50, you don’t need a receipt (but must follow other recordkeeping rules for the expense).

But the $75 rule does not apply to lodging. So, if you stay at a Travel Lodge, you’re going to need a receipt regardless of the cost.

5. Rely on per diem rates
Instead of trying to substantiate lodging and meal costs while traveling away from your regular business location, you may be able to use a government-set daily rate:

GSA.gov has per diem rates. There is a basic rate fixed for the government’s fiscal year ending September 30, with higher rates for certain destinations.
IRS high-low substantiation rates: one rate for most locations within the continental U.S., but a higher one for travel to set locations. The rates also apply for the government’s fiscal year (those for FY 2019 are here ).
Note: Self-employed individuals can use per diem rates only for meals and incidental expenses (not for lodging).

Final thought
Work with your CPA or other tax advisor to make sure your recordkeeping practices for your business are in line with IRS requirements and financial reporting standards.

4 Tips for Better Recordkeeping

4 Tips for Better Recordkeeping


1) Separate Business & Personal Bank Accounts

The law varies depending on your type of business entity, but the reality is you should keep your business and personal finances separate. Most banks offer low cost checking accounts you can open and use solely for business. Just having all your business transactions run through their own account will help you keep your business and personal finances separate, which is important. It will also give you the most basic look at what money is coming in and out of your business.

2) Use Accounting Software

There are some great options out there that range in cost from Free up to $100’s per month depending on the size and complexity of your business transactions. Most have a free trial. Try testing a few to see what works for you, or talk to a bookkeeper to see what software they would recommend for business size and type. A few options you might consider are Quickbooks, Freshbooks, or Xero. Even if you are using a simple spreadsheet, that is a step in the right direction.

3) Scan Your Receipts

Receipts are the proof that your expense was indeed business related. In our world of technology and smartphones, there is really no excuse to not having record of your receipts. Many accounting softwares now have receipt scanning built-in, so you can snap the receipt on your smartphone and it auto loads into the software. You can also use Evernote to snap pictures of receipts to save in your digital filing cabinet. I strongly recommend storing your receipts in digital form. This way they won’t fade, degrade, or get lost as easily (We all know how tricky they can be!) Plus with all of the things we buy online, most of our receipts are already digital.

4) Hire a Professional Tax Preparer

Do it yourself Software is great for many people, but if you aren’t sure how to answer the automated questionnaire then you’re out of luck and it won’t think the ask the questions a tax professional will. As much as we all want to be able to save money and do it ourselves, you’re not a tax expert. How do you know what is and isn’t deductible; how to properly depreciate vs deduct; whether or not you need to file 1099’s for those you have paid but weren’t employees; or how much to pay in estimated taxes? If any of those terms confused you, that is good sign you want to work with a professional, and save the frustrations of trying to do it yourself. If you need help, please consider Alvarez Tax Services, you can contact us by calling us at 714-400-9201.


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