Tax time always seems like it’s around the corner which for many of us means a big headache. It’s never too late to plan for deductions.
I’m sure you take the standard deductions like food and mileage, but did you know you can also deduct the cost of your steel-toed boots? Your cell phone data plan? Your hand sanitizer?
What can truck drivers deduct? It turns out quite a bit especially if you’re an owner operator. Those (and so many other expenses) can be deducted to help give you a break on your taxes.
This last year gave us all a swift kick in the pants, so I’m here with a handy guide to help you navigate your way through.
What Can Truck Drivers Deduct?
Truck drivers can deduct work related expenses like cell phones, administrative fees, Cleaning supplies, clothing, gear and other supplies. Owner operators are generally able to write off more expenses than a company driver. Consult a tax professional to analyze the specifics of your circumstances.
What expenses can a truck driver deduct?
Two plates of bacon and eggs at Susie’s Diner says you want to save every penny you can. Who doesn’t?
Unfortunately, if you’re a company driver, you won’t be getting many deductions. Due to recent tax law changes, itemized deductions have been replaced by a (larger) standard deduction for employee truckers.
However, owner operators and independent contractors are still able to deduct certain expenses. You’re looking for what you can write off, and I’m here with all the answers.
You probably know that any office supplies and uniform costs are tax deductible, but you’re not just using up pens and dropping off your dry cleaning. What else can you deduct?
Are you paying for a data plan that you otherwise wouldn’t be using? You can write it off, plus:
- Internet (Cell phone data plans)
- Satellite (Qualcomm, Sirius/XM)
Fees can eat up your money ridiculously fast. Get some of it back by writing off these administrative fees:
- ATM Fees
- Check Reorder Fees
- Postage Fees
Association and Union Dues
The IRS allows 100% of fees and unions dues to be deducted.
- OOIDA (Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association) Teamsters, etc
- ATA (American Trucking Association
The supplies you need to clean your truck usually need to stay in the truck. That’s why you can deduct these items:
- Window cleaner
- Paper towels
- Portable vacuum
- Trash bags
- Hand cleaner/sanitizer
Pretty much anything that you need to use while on the road and away from home can be deducted, but there are some limitations.
- Dry cleaning
- Laundry bags
- Laundry soap
- Uniform alterations
ComData / ComCheck Fees
Did you have to buy a special program for work? Or, maybe you pay fees for a credit card you had to get for some work-mileage deal? Good news: you can write those off, too.
- Computer Software
- Credit Card Fees
The IRS knows that not everyone needs special electronics like a CB radio or external GPS unit, and they also know that those devices aren’t going to be used in many other circumstances. You can deduct things like:
- CB Radio and Repair
- Cell Phone
- GPS Unit
- GPS Map Updates
Writing off interest can be complicated (I’ll address that in a minute), so get a tax professional to help you out.
- Business Loan
- Credit Card
What else are you going to use these for? You can write off:
- Bungee Cords
- Load Chains
- Load Straps
- Wide Load Flags
It’s not all driving – sometimes you have to fill out a form or two (or seven). Write off any office supplies you use for trucking, like:
- Envelopes and Folders
- Log Book
- Pens and Pencils
- Rubber Bands
Do you need to pass a physical before you get back on the road? You can write that off, too! Along with:
- Drug Tests
- DOT Physical
- Sleep Apnea Study – In addition, if you were prescribed a CPAP machine you may be able to deduct that also. Check with your tax preparer.
Protective / Work Clothing
The road can get dangerous and dirty, so you’ve probably got a pair of work gloves or two. Don’t forget to deduct these and other safety gear expenses:
- Work Gloves
- Hard Hat
- Rain Gear
- Safety Glasses
Real Estate Expenses
Similar to interest expenses, these can be very tricky and headache-inducing. Get a tax pro to help you with them. You won’t regret it.
- Mortgage Interest
- Mortgage Prepayment Penalties
- Penalties of Early Withdrawals
- Points on Principal Residence Financing
- Real Estate Taxes
Tools and Equipment
Chances are, you’ve got a few tools and equipment for your truck. If you have a flat tire, you better have a lug wrench, right? You can write off these tools:
- Duct Tape
- Electrical Tape
- Tire Iron
Check with your tax professional, but you may be able deduct items that you purchase for work such as:
Other cooking items you keep in your sleeper (hot plates, mini fridges, cookware)
Bluetooth headsets – although you may have to figure what percentage of time you use for work vs personal.
Trucking and Business-Related Subscriptions
Any subscription to a technical, trade, scientific, business, or professional journal, newspaper, or magazine is deductible as long as it relates to the production of your assessable income.
- Load Board Subscriber Fees
- Trucking Industry Magazines
Lodging, meals, and travel expenses are all deductible (and are also addressed down below).
- Air Fare
- Cab Fare
Local truck drivers typically can’t deduct travel expenses, as they don’t really need to travel far (being local, and all). Those deductions will depend on your “tax home.”
A tax home is the general local area of your main place of business (which is independent of your main home). If you don’t have a main place of business or home, your tax home is considered to be wherever you work.
The deductions list is a pretty long one, but as stated, not everything is deductible. Don’t get too crazy with your deductions or you’ll end up with an audit. Here are some things that cannot be deducted:
- Any expenses reimbursed by your employer
- Clothing that can be used for everyday wear
- Commuting costs
- Home phone line
- Interest on personal loans
- Personal vacations
If you’re an owner operator, here are some things to keep in mind:
- You can only deduct expenses incurred that are needed to operate the truck during times such as fuel, tolls, scales, etc., (can’t deduct income lost as a result of deadhead/unpaid mileage).
- You can’t deduct labor time from working on your own equipment.
- You can’t deduct downtime.
How much can I claim for meals as a truck driver?
Long-haul truck drivers can deduct a few more expenses than others. To qualify for meals, lodging, and shower deductions, you must have traveled more than 160 kilometers one way from your tax home for more than 24 hours. Otherwise, it’s not much of a long-haul, is it?
You can claim up to $63 for meals for each day you’re on the road. You may know this as the per diem rate. I see it as my monthly Panda Express limit. If you’re eating three meals a day, this comes to about $21 per meal.
Once again, keep your receipts. A $12 receipt from Subway may not seem like much, but when the taxman comes a-knockin’, you’ll be glad you have it (and all the others).
What can company truck drivers claim on tax?
If you’re a company truck driver, you can no longer deduct unreimbursed, work-related expenses. Tax reform has replaced these itemized deductions with a much-larger standard deduction for employees. You should receive a W-2 from your employer for your job.
If you’re a self-employed driver, you should receive a Form 1099-MISC. You’ll be able to report that income and any expenses on a Schedule C, Profit and Loss from Business.
Can Truck drivers deduct showers?
For long-haul truck drivers, it costs money to do even the simplest of things, like shower. That’s why the IRS lets you claim your shower expenses (and meals and lodging).
Truck stops usually provide showers for free if you buy fuel. However, if you’re just stopping by just for a quick clean up, you’re probably going to have to fork over some cash (but as I said, it’s deductible!).
Getting tired of sleeping in your cab and showering at truck stops? You can claim up to 80% of your lodging, and meals, so don’t always feel like you need to sleep in the truck. Get a hotel room for $100 and you’ll be able to claim $80 of it on your taxes.
Can owner operators write off truck payments?
Did you know that owner operators can write off truck payments? Well, kind of. Truckers who buy a new rig may have write-offs that include interest payments and truck depreciation, but beware!
These deductions are often overlooked or underestimated, as they deal with depreciating values. Hire a professional to make sure you’ve accounted for everything.
It’s vital to track your expenses, especially if you’re going to be taking a lot of deductions. Audits are terrible and you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of one without the logs and receipts you need. Keep in mind that the maximum amount of deductions you can take without receipts is around $300.
It’s always a good idea to check with a tax professional (you know, someone who does it for a living) to deal with your unique situation so you can get every deduction possible.
If you’re a long-haul truck driver, you have a lot of options. As you can see, there are tons of expenses you can deduct. From administrative costs to medical expenses, you don’t want to miss a single thing. So take my advice, and don’t.