Going the Extra Mile to Save on Taxes

By Steve StraussBusiness on Main

Recent changes in the law, and some cool new tools on the market, make tracking mileage and expenses easier than ever — and that means saving time and money.

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Who would’ve thought that the huge, bureaucratic, moves-as-slow-as-a-tortoise entity known as the IRS would be able to turn on a dime — and in favor of you, the small-business owner, no less.

Well, it can, and it did.

In a surprising mid-year ruling earlier this summer stemming from rising oil prices around the globe, Uncle Sam concluded that the resulting higher gas prices meant drivers should be able to get an additional 4.5 cents back per each mile driven for business. Specifically, the rule now is that, since July 1, businesses can “deduct 55.5 cents per mile for using their private vehicle for business-related travel.” (CNN.com.)

That’s not an insignificant number. It’s practically a 10 percent increase in the amount that can be deducted, and the total can add up to some real money — easily hundreds of dollars for those road warriors who rack up the miles in their business.

Which begs the question: How do you keep track of your business miles and expenses? Mileage not tracked and receipts not accounted for equals money lost. Here, then, are some great tools you should check out that can really help you track your mileage, expenses and travel costs.

Tools you can use CarCheckup: One of the problems with tracking mileage is that it can be, well, a hassle — having a little log book or software program that’s easily accessible, remembering to enter the data, etc. CarCheckup is an easy solution that automatically tracks your mileage for you.

Here’s how it works:

1. Take the device (about the size of your palm) and plug it into your vehicle’s diagnostics port (usually located under the steering wheel). Now when you drive, the device will record your speed, miles and other data points from your vehicle. If you leave it plugged in all day, it will also record start and stop times and the distance of each trip.

2. When you need to make a mileage log, simply remove the CarCheckup device from your vehicle’s port and plug it into your computer with its USB arm.

3. You can then download your data onto carcheckup.com. The program will crunch your numbers and store the data, allowing you to access your account anywhere.

Concur Breeze with TripIt Pro: Besides monitoring one’s mileage, another real hassle for those on the road is keeping track of receipts for expense reports and taxes.

Is there anything businesspeople like less than creating expense reports?

And it’s no wonder they hate them. Incurring some minor travel expense, getting a tiny receipt for it and filing it away (or losing it — or forgetting to get it in the first place), and then accurately entering it along with all the other little receipts a few months later makes expense reports the kryptonite of business accounting.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Concur Breeze is a cool app that works on any smartphone:

- Photograph receipts with your smartphone, then automatically download them into your expense report — and throw the physical receipts away! No more tiny pieces of paper floating around your briefcase or office.

- Import credit card receipts into that same expense report — automatically.

- A recent addition to the program, TripIt Pro, allows you to capture business travel itinerary data from any source and deliver it directly to the same expense report.

- And because the software integrates seamlessly with Google Apps for Business, you can use that tool with it as well.

Expense reports be gone!

(Note: I do some work with Concur. In fact, that’s why I know about this cool tool.)

Shoeboxed: Now what if you already have a shoebox full of receipts and mileage logs? It’s late in the year, after all. In that case, check out Shoeboxed. This great service allows you to send it your physical paper receipts and logs so that the tedious work is done for you — scanning your receipts and reports and then entering your data onto secure servers for you to review at your leisure.

So now, thanks to these tools, it really is easier than ever to get full credit for all of your business mileage and other travel expenses.

What do you think?

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