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Can I write-off my car, truck or SUV as a business expense?

If you're self-employed and use your vehicle in your business, you can probably deduct the business portion of your vehicle expenses on your business tax return. But this deduction is trickier than most people realize.

The big thing that goofs many people up, you need substantiation to prove your business use. Ideally, in fact, the Internal Revenue Service wants you to keep a log of your business miles, your commuting miles, and your personal miles. With this information, you can then either deduct an amount equal to the business miles times a standard per-mile rate of roughly $0.60 or you can deduct the percentage of your vehicle expenses equal to the percentage that your business miles represent. For example, if your business use equals 5,000 miles, personal use equals 3000, and commuting equals 2000 miles, your total miles for the year equal 10,000. Business miles as a percentage of total miles equal 50% because 5,000 divided by 10,000 equals .5 or 50%.

If you don't have exact records, you can sometimes use good sampling. For example, if you keep a good appointment calendar of your business activities, one popular tax reference suggests that you can look at the total business, personal and commuting miles driven during one week each month. Then, you can average this data to get good weekly estimates of your business, personal, and commuting miles. Finally, you can multiple these weekly estimates by 52 (the number of weeks in a year) to get reasonable estimates of your business, personal and commuting miles.

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