Truck drivers, whether they are owner-operators or drive professionally for an organization, can deduct a number of on-the-road expenses on their federal income taxes. Special rules apply to truck drivers; The IRS recognizes the importance of trucking in the national economy and acknowledges there are many expenses incurred in the profession. Owner-operators are afforded a few more deductions to subsidize the expense of owning and operating their semitrucks.
Equipment and Related Expenses
Owner-operators garner the largest deductions in the equipment and equipment-related expenses category. According to the federal tax code’s Section 179 Deductions for Tangible Property, a truck owner does not have to depreciate his truck over the long term, but may instead be able to make a large one-time deduction. The maximum Section 179 expense deduction for qualified real property is $250,000. Repairs and maintenance to the truck may also be deducted. Truckers are allowed a deduction for gas expenses and the purchase of products related to the operation of the truck as well.
Because truckers are on the road for the majority of their work time, they often spend a great deal on communication expenses. Expenses such as cellphones, cellphone service, CB radios, satellite networks for computers, computer software and laptops may all be included as business-related expenses and are deductible at a percentage of their original cost. If you use your cellphone for personal use as well, you may only deduct business-related usage.
Personal expenses for truck drivers differ from those for businesspeople who are traveling. Truckers often sleep in their trucks instead of paying for a hotel. If you purchase a sleeping bag, bunk, blankets, hot pot or truck stop showers, you can deduct all of these as business- related expenses. Trucking companies will sometimes pay drivers a per diem for food. In these circumstances, the driver cannot deduct the amount of the per diem, but may be able to deduct meals that exceed the per diem up to the IRS limit. Owner-operators who do not receive a company per diem to cover food may use the special deduction for employees involved in transportation. As a truck driver as of 2010, you can claim a standard meal allowance of $59 a day ($65 for travel outside the continental United States). Truckers should verify these deductions annually as they are often modified by the IRS.
Throughout the year, as you conduct your duties as a company truck driver or an owner-operator, you will encounter expenses. To get the most out of your tax deductions, you need to keep and organize all receipts that are business related. Purchasing an expandable file folder and files is an easy way to organize your receipts. Label files according to the nature of the receipts; truck repairs and maintenance, food, lodging, communication and perhaps miscellaneous. If you don’t have an official receipt, include a handwritten receipt with the amount of purchase, date and what it was for.