Truckers’ Tax Tips & Truck Driver Tax Deduction Help


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There are are number of fees and expenses related to trucking that are tax deductible, and a well-organized trucker takes all tax deductions available.

Drivers, when you’re doing taxes, Don’t Forget These Deductions:

Access Fees:

  • Internet (Cell phone data plans)
  • Satellite (Qualcomm, Sirius/XM)

Administrative Fees:

  • ATM Fees
  • Check Reorder Fees

Association Dues

  • OOIDA, Teamsters, etc

ComData/ComCheck Fees:

  • Computer Software
  • Credit Card Fees

Cleaning Supplies:

  • Window Cleaner
  • Paper Towels
  • RainX

Interest:

  • Business Loan
  • Credit Card

Office Supplies:

  • Pens, Pencils, Paperclips, Envelopes, Folders, Rubber Bands

Medical Exams

  • DOT Physical
  • Drug Tests
  • Sleep Apnea Study

Postage Fees:

  • For Mailing Invoices, Bills of Lading, etc…

Real Estate Expenses:

  • Mortgage interest
  • Mortgage prepayment penalties
  • Penalties of early withdrawals
  • Points on principal residence financing
  • Real estate taxes

Safety Gear

  • Steel-toe boots
  • Work Gloves
  • Cargo straps

Trucking & Business Related Subscriptions

  • Load board subscriber fees
  • Trucking industry magazines

Uniforms

  • Dry Cleaning Costs for your uniforms or protective clothing

Don’t make the same mistake as many truck drivers, falling into the trap of trying to claim too much and ending up with an audit.  Here are some non-deductible expenses that many truckers’ need to leave off:

NON-Deductible Expenses:

  • Expenses that were reimbursed by your employer
  • Clothing that is adaptable to everyday wear
  • Commuting costs (tolls, gas, parking)
  • Home phone line
  • Interest on personal loans
  • Personal vacations

Special Notes For Owner-Operators:

  • You CANNOT deduct the time you incur from working on your own equipment
  • You CANNOT deduct the income lost as a result of deahead/unpaid mileage, ONLY the expenses incurred to operate the truck during that time such as fuel, tolls and scales. etc.
  • You CANNOT deduct for downtime

Note: Your tax situation is unique. This article does not give nor is it intended to give specific tax advice. Please confer with your own licensed tax/accounting professional.

A big thanks to Jack Vyhnalek at TDA Accounting Partners for answering tax questions from our readers in the comments section! Always nice to find someone who wants to earn your business, not just advertise for it.

Below are accountants that offer trucking specific accounting services:

TDA Accounting Partners

TruckerCPA

Gerald M. Schecter & Company

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Comments

120 comments. Add a comment.

  1. Frank Emich says

    my company gives us the perdiem pay in our checks instead of letting us file for it @ the end of the year now how do I go about filling out tax forms on turbo tax

    • Tamara B says

      Hi Frank… if you are paid per diem the amount that you were paid should be in box 14 of your W2. This amount is nontaxable and does not need to be put on your tax return. On the other hand you won’t be taking a per diem amount for your meals on your schedule C or a 2106 (for work-related expenses) as your company has already paid you for it. Some truckers may tell you that they do that and get away with it but I wouldn’t want to risk it.

      • says

        Not entirely true. When you figure your per diem (M&IE) you can take the $59/day at 80% or 50% as applicable, then you must subtract out the amount paid by the company. You might have a few dollars there.

        Just for the record, I agree that I wouldn’t risk double dipping, but box 14 is checked by the IRS differently than box 12. That is why many drivers get away with what Tamara mentioned. Come audit time they will not be happy…
        Hope this helps,
        Jack

        • Greg says

          Hey Jack, My brother is a truck driver and his accountant said that he couldn’t take the difference. I had heard from other buddies that you could and tried to convince him he is getting screwed, but he doens’t believe me. I tried researching it to get proof, but i’m no tax expert and have no clue how to go through the irs website. Do you happen to know exactly what irs tax law states that taking that difference is okay? If i could get him more then a “he said she said”, i would probably be able to get through to him. thanks so much!

  2. Tamara B says

    ps I haven’t used turbo tax lately (I am a paid preparer) but having thought about this more, if there is a place to put a box 14 entry on Turbo Tax, and the amount is on your W2 in box 14, type it in but you won’t be taxed on it.

    • Misty says

      Our 1099 tax person is Rose..562.865.8100. We are in Southern California. I do know she can answer any questions regarding 1099. She specializes in OTR, O/O taxes. Do tell her I gave you her number if you do call! She is an awesome lady, great attitude and very pleasant! Good luck to you!!

  3. David in Fargo says

    Is there a website or a publication that lists the deduction categories by expense. For example, which of the IRS Deduction categories would Scale Tickets be place. My thought would be that they are a professional service, but have been told that they go under Other Expenses.

    Paper towels could go under Supplies, Office Expense, Maintenance, Repairs or Other Expense…

    I just want things to be in the right category in case I am audited.

    I wish there was a list of all expenses and their corresponding deduction category.

  4. Mike in Texas says

    I have been told that meals are tax deductible as well..Is this true or am I being given some bad information?

    • Karen says

      Meals are deductable, but it is so much easier to use the per diem rate, that way you only have to keep track of the number of days you are out of town, not all of your meal receipts. And remember, they are only deductable if you do not get reimbursed for it!

      • Ron Lucier Sr says

        If your not paid a per diem your safe / best bet is take the Standard meal allowance for D.O.T. hours of service compliance IRS. publication 463 bottom of page C6 top of C7

    • Rae says

      Your meals are reimbursed up to a certain percentage, and only if you have your receipt. The per diem that you can claim is $52/day instead of saving receipts. You can still claim other receipts, such as scales, washes, and truck supplies on top of the per diem as long as you have your receipts. Using the per diem rate is a lot easier and more beneficial (for me) as I don’t eat $52/day in food.

  5. says

    I’m trying to file on turbo tax using my taxes (that we’re done by a prepairer last year) as a guide. My turbo tax doesn’t have a place for me to deduct my truck lease payments. Also I train students that are paid as an employee through my company. But the actual wages are taken from my pay. How can I recoop that employee cost.

  6. bobby says

    i`m a self-employed truck driver. can i use per diem rate. in which box ot Schedule C i have to put per dime

  7. greg says

    MY RUNS ARE AROUND 250- 350 PER DAY, I ‘M USUALLY OUT FROM 1030 AT NIGHT TO 0530 IN THE MORNING , CAN I STILL USE THE PER DIEM DEDUCTION?

    • truckerstaxhaven says

      Dear Greg,

      Bad news. Per diem expenses are for when you are away overnight, and staying somewhere else. A single shift does not count. Just because you work nights doesn’t count. If you worked from 10:30 am til 5:30 pm you would not qualify. Working night shift doesn’t change anything.

      When you are away overnight and have to stay somewhere, even in your truck, then you count the day you leave and the day you return as 3/4 days. All other days count for full days. If you are staying overnight somewhere, even days you leave at 10:30 pm and return at 5:30 am count for 3/4 day.

      Hope this helps.

      Truckers Tax Haven

  8. Becky says

    Is there any type of deduction/offset for “lost miles” if you are not an owner-operator? I see in the special notes above that uppaid mileage is not deductible for owner-operators. In this situation, the truck is owned by the company and the drivers run short trips daily. Example, trip pays 100 miles, however, actual miles driven for each trip is 110. Over a year, the extra 10 miles can really add up. This may be a long shot or false information amond the drivers.

    • Rae says

      There is no way to claim ‘lost miles’. (actual/driven vs. company calculated/paid) I tried that when I worked for a large company who was well known for being short on their miles up to 20% every trip, on a 1000 mile run, that not only shorts the miles, but screws the log book, too.
      If there is a discreprency between the miles your company said you’d get paid for and what they paid you, then you need to take it up with the company (usually better to take care of that once a month or week).

    • Karen says

      Publication 463 says you can take a per diem of $52 in the states and $59 out of the US. This is for meals. Just make sure you aren’t near your residence. The form is pretty easy to read. Look under travel, meals & logding for transportation workers. The usual deduction is $39.

  9. will says

    I was wondering if anyone would be able to tell me with fed, state and social security what is the percentage i should with hold from my check every week as a single person who claims one at the end of the year on my 1099?

  10. Jim says

    I am a company driver. I drive dead head 100 miles to pick up a load for which I am not paid. I then drive 300 miles loaded for which I am paid. Can I denduct the time it takes me to get to the paying portion of the job?

  11. Kay says

    Do the deductions above apply if you work for a Company? Example: My BF uses his own money to wash his truck (owned by the company) once a week. If he was to get a receipt would he be able to take the deduction? Also, would he be able to write off the cleaning & office supplies that he keeps in his truck if he purchases them with his own money? Thank you in advance for any information you can provide.

    • Rae says

      If he is a company driver, the company usually will reimburse the wash fee normally once every 2 weeks. If he doesn’t turn them in then he can deduct them at tax time. And any office supplies purchased for use on the truck are deductible.

  12. Rae says

    I have to renew my CDL this year, including my hazmat. This amounts to over $150! This fee should be on the list of deductible expenses but I don’t see it up there.

    • admin says

      Sure, they are deductible if you’re paying them on the job. However, tolls and fuel that are paid on your way to work in your personal vehicle are non-deductible, which is why they are listed in that section.

  13. sara jackson says

    My boyfriend is a new truck driver and Im trying tohelp him keep everythign in order for tax time. I understand that you get a 52.00 a day food rate, and that papertowels and what not can be deducted. Is there any helpful hints that anyone can give me? All I have is a pile of receipts he gives me each month when he comes home. Im so confused!

  14. ROBERT says

    My company takes taxes out of my hourly rate, but on my check the milage that I am paid is not taxed. Am I responsible for all these taxes?

    Thanks for any help you can give me.

  15. Krista says

    Whom or what do you use to file your taxes at the end of the year. This is the first year that my husband is an O/O. But he also has a w2 coming for company driver for 3/4 of the year. Any information will be greatly appreciated

  16. james says

    Karyn I live in WI and I was able to deduct TV, DVD player., CB, Sirius radio, GPS, Atlas, Postage, Laundry, Basic Supplies Tire gauge Flashlight etc.

  17. JB says

    Unpaid miles, entertainment – not deductible.
    Per diem pay forced by employer – NOT a good deal for drivers, Research it.
    Rate allowed is $59/day for days actually on the road. Calculate how many days out. Subtract
    the forced per diem and if the standard of $59 is higher, you can deduct the difference. Remember when employer does the per diem, this “decreases” your pay for social security, income claimed to get mortgages, unemployment amount, etc.
    Husband/Wife teams each get the standard daily deduction as a driver in their own right.
    Per diem/standard daily deduction write off is for drivers that do not go home every night and have to sleep in truck.
    Licensing, endorsements, physicals, etc that are not paid for by employer are deductible.
    Get a good CPA that does lots of trucker taxes. Well worth the small cost and it’s deductible.
    Ours is Darrel Ingram in Dallas, look him up. Years of experience with truckers.

  18. Mittie says

    My brother is an independent trucker. He uses his cell phone for both business & personal use. What is a safe percentage of his cell phone bill can he claim as a tax deduction?

  19. cindy says

    My son made $25k working for a trucking company. This year HRBlock claimed a per diem for 232 days using form 2106 and a schedual A form. He wanted to buy a house but was told his deductions were too high. The per diem brought his income down to $14k so now he’s told he can’t buy a house. Even though he grossed $25k, his income tax form basically says he only made $14k. What happened? Can this be corrected?

    • says

      Cindy,
      It sounds like your preparer correctly figured your son’s tax return. The deductions on IRS Form 2106 and Schedule A only serve to reduce the taxable income, his Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) remains the same. I agree with Amber that you need to find a competent mortgage broker. Another fact I like to stress is that a tax return is not an accurate reflection of your income, it is merely a document used to determine your tax liability – or in other words, how much money to send Uncle Sam. It sounds like he is a company driver, his AGI should suffice. I hope this information did not come too late!

  20. shoreman says

    I have been told that meals are tax deductible as well..Is this true or am I being given some bad information?

  21. STap says

    Wow. This is all confusing. I do not understand this perdiem thing. The IRS will allow each driver to deduct $59/day out just cuz they are a truck driver. Correct? Why would this make it look like you made less during the year? I thought deductions were just that, deductions. It softens the blow of what you owe the tax man/ allows you to get money back at the end of they year?? My husband and I will be very diligent in keep receipts, etc and I want to make sure we take advantage of everything we can. I have used turbo tax in the past for business ventures and it was great. Easy to use and covered everything. I can’t imagine it would be different for this. Btw, thanks so much for this thread. Helps!!

  22. Chris says

    You will have to claim the perdiem they gave you and then deduct the total perdiem allowance you are entitled to..

  23. Chris says

    Yes its correct. The bank see’s it just like it is, Your Son may “Generate” $25k a yr . But acording to His tax filling it cost him $11k to do it.

  24. Louise says

    My husband has just become employeed by a small private trucking company. We found out they do not deduct taxes from his checks. I need to learn how to do that myself but I have absolutely NO clue how it’s done or how to pay the taxes. Anyone in this situation? Can you help me, please?

  25. Tracy says

    My question is concerning the per diem for tax purpose. My husband gets a per diem but one trip its $13.00, the next trip it could be 28.00 and so on But he is always out on the road,,, so can we deduct the differenc of $52.00 per day?

  26. Pamala says

    So my husband is a company truck driver he is OTR keeps log books but isn’t out over night. Can he claim anything from his log books?

  27. says

    Tracy, the per diem is $59 per day not $52. Also the days of leaving and returning are handled in a special way. If he is subject to DOT regs he can claim 80% of this allowance instead of the usual 50%. If he is getting reimbursement from his employer he has to back it out from the allowance.

    • says

      Please be careful, the standard M&IE (Meals per diem rate) is $46 for 2013! The government actually publishes different rates for different locations within the United States. Higher rates apply in certain areas. Most people do best to stick with the standard rate because is is difficult and time consuming to determine and prove the driver was in higher locations. Please see http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p463.pdf page 6 top of the center column and http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/101518.

      • Rose says

        jack…please re-read the publication you mentioned…there is a special rate for transportation workers…$59 per day

      • Michelle says

        Standard meal deduction is $59 for truck drivers, read about another paragraph or so down. And it explains transportation industry has a higher rate than the standard $46 for the rest of us.

  28. says

    ok… first time trying to do deductions for my husband (otr) driver. what is the per diem deduction and what is the food deduction? what category do they go under?

    • says

      I hope that you have already found your answers! But it is snowing and our office is relatively quiet so I am browsing. Please see http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p463.pdf page 6 top of the center column and http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/101518 for your answers. As to where to put these, it depends on if he is a company driver or O/O. In the first case it will go on IRS Form 2106 which will populate your schedule A. As an O/O it will probably be a schedule C, probably. If you have an LLC (most do these days) you need to understand what entity you have established to determine your filing requirements. I would suggest asking an accountant or EA if you have. There might be other options open to you depending how you have things set up. If he is subject to the DOT rules for hours of service he can take the 80% deduction. If not, such as an escort car, etc. he can only take the 50% deduction. Hope this helps.

    • says

      No no no no no no no no no! Not true! In order to take standard mileage the vehicle has to be personal use vehicle, such as a car or light truck that you would normally drive with the family. Class A and Class B vehicles do not qualify for this. Last year we had a driver come to our firm because his last preparer (uses the color green in their logo) claimed the standard mileage deduction and he wound up with an IRS audit. I cannot say that this is a red flag for the IRS but it is not correct. It is not the firm that the preparer works for that determines their competency but the person. I would recommend finding someone with trucking experience and sticking with them. If they earn your business they deserve your business.

  29. Lauretta Osterman says

    I ride with my husband full time our truck is leased out to a company, for next year taxes what are the requirements for myself to get any allowances, I help with everything including all the expenses etc., but the driving, as I do not have a CDL or permit. Would I also have to be employed by the lease company ? Can I just have a permit or has to be a CDL the tax man said I needed a CDL and I am wondering if it can be a permit and or employed? * He is employed by them as I am not*

    • heartless says

      @ Lauretta
      If you do not hold a CDL, AND are not actually employed by the company, you can not claim the per diem – sorry. Riding along does not count, regardless of whether you do all the paperwork or not.

      and whoever is stating the per diem rate as $59/day is WRONG!

      the correct rate is: continental US = $52/day

  30. heartless says

    OK, I need to amend my previous statement

    the per diem rate for 2012 was $52/day from Jan 1 to Sept 30.
    From Oct 1 to the end of the year it was apparently increased to $59/day

    You can not use the $59/day for the entire year – only from October 1st on.

    • semi-crazy roadscholar says

      NO, you need to amend your statement again. The per diem rate change took effect during the 2010 tax year. The correct rate for truck drivers for the 2012 tax year is 59./day for the entire year and a driver can deduct 80% of any un-reimbursed meal expenses.

  31. says

    I make 25% of the load and my company say’s they are paying us a per diem. Here is the way they do it: I make 25% of the load and before they take out taxes they take the $59 per day per diem off the top of my pay than take the taxes out than add the per diem back in. My question is , is this right or not for the way that I see it they are dropping my rate of pay by doing it this way, it like I’m paying my own perdiem and not them. So what is the right way to do it

  32. l93722 says

    My husband just got a job with a small trucking co. He’s on the road 6-7d a week, and gets paid same amount each time upon delivering load. The owner does not take anything out for taxes, so we have to do this ourselves. So my question is, is there a program tha I can use to calculate all deductions and how to and how much to pay on quarterly taxes?
    Or do I have to bite the bullet and pay $$ to have a CPA or bookeeper do this?

    thanks

    • says

      Hmm. Good question. If your husband is being paid and no taxes taken out he will probably receive a 1099. There are plenty of software programs out there to complete your taxes, but you might find it easier and less painful to find a competent preparer (I would put my info here but I am not certain I can :). There are a few questions you should answer first, though. Is your husband an owner operator? If so, has he set up some type of an company entity such as a partnership, LLC, Sub S, etc.? If NOT, you are PROBABLY going to file your return on Schedule C of your individual tax return. If SO, you might still be filing Schedule C.

      Next, you should determine the number of nights he spent out of town. I assume he drags his hotel around with him (sleeper). He would then be entitled to take the M&IE deduction (seehttp://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p463.pdf page 6 top of the center column and http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/101518). You can usually substantiate the number of nights away from the tax home from the driving log. Next, he will want to take all the business deductions that are appropriate. It comes down to expenses that are ordinary and necessary for his line of work. He cannot take personal expenses. For instance, if he buys work boots so that if he drops a binder on his foot he doesn’t break a toe he can deduct those. If he buys a book or magazine to read on his off time he cannot.

      I would encourage you to find a competent preparer who is familiar with the trucking industry. You can look in magazines such as National Truckin Magazine and find someone :) (plug plug) or talk to a driver who is satisfied with his/her preparer. While CPAs often are tax experts their field of study is rather broad and they may not be well suited for individual taxes or truckers per se. Much like seeing a general practitioner when you should see an ophthalmologist. Regardless, you should be able to find someone who can steer you in the correct direction if you have questions.

      • Melissa says

        Hello Jack V-
        I’m in need of a few questions needing answered as I’m filling out my 3rd app for healthcare.org and my husband went independent about 6 weeks ago. We had originally filled out the app as self employed, but after speaking w/ someone at the market place, I was told he would be independent and we called the company and they advised they send 1099’s. I noticed your (plug plug) lol and wondered if you may be able to help? I am trying to figure out how on earth I would determine our yearly income minus expenses (cause i have no clue) in order to report a somewhat accurate figure. Or if I should just go w/ 2012’s income, then report changes later? We are also looking for a “competent preparer who is familiar with the trucking industry”.

  33. Andrea says

    Hi, my husband is a OTR truck driver how can we deduct the per diem. This is so confusing for us. And also does anyone know what things can we deduct as job related expenses? Can we write off laundry, cell phone use por business? If yes how do we do it?

  34. Lawrence Fessler says

    I drive for Walmart and my last dot physical I had too get a sleep study as required by the dot doctor they use and they said I have sleep apnea and in order too keep my cdl and job with Walmart I had too start using a cpap machine too sleep at least 4 hours a day and 75% off the time all monitored by the doctor and state off pa when my physical runs out or I loosemy cdl or they downgrade it too a car license is this all deductible on business exspense as I drive over the road my insurance paid there part but I am talking about the part they did not pay also since them Walmart started there own program and made the requirements stricter then the dot but they are paying for everything now in a home testing kit and a cpap machine but I had it done before this happened

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