I recently read that 95% of small businesses fail within the first 5 years due to either bad management, under capitalization, or some combination of the two. Tax issues for small business owners have the same roots. Bad record keeping is often a sign of bad management. Mileage is one of the most highly scrutinized and most common areas on which small businesses are examined (audited). If you are a small business owner who isn’t keeping good mileage records you may be leaving money on the table. Worse, if you are audited, legitimate business mileage expenses may be disallowed because of your failure to keep adequate records.
The Self Help tab of the Tax Therapy website (Get Organized and Get Answers) offers additional resources to help you track and substantiate your business mileage. In a nutshell, your business mileage log should be contemporaneous (done at about the same time or shortly after you make the drive) and should show the date of the trip, the business purpose of the trip, and the miles driven. It is really common for people to not record the business purpose of the trip on the mileage log. It’s a lot easier to do this when you record the miles than it is to try to re-build that from an appointment calendar!
Finally, a great way to record your starting and ending odometer readings for your annual mileage total is to take a picture of your odometer with your phone on January 1 and again on December 31. If you haven’t taken a picture of your odometer this year, it’s not too late. It won’t be perfect, but it will be close and it will help you get into a really good habit! I hope that one of your New Year’s Resolutions, if you are a small business owner, is to improve your record keeping! It’s easy to do once you make a habit of it. And it’s one of the simplest ways to make sure your start up stays up!