If you’re a long-haul truck driver, chances are you make several work-related purchases in a typical day. You grab a cup of coffee and hit the road. You have to stop for fuel, and you pick up some lunch while you’re off the freeway. As you make these notes in the logbook you purchased for your trips, you realize your truck is due for regular maintenance soon. After driving another leg of your journey, you get to your truck stop or hotel. That evening, you check your credit card app and see that your automatic payment for union dues went through. After buying some dinner and a shower, it’s time to hit the hay so you can get an early start tomorrow.
There are a lot of expenses when you spend your day traveling! These can eat away at your hard-earned paycheck. However, smart truck drivers know that by carefully keeping records of all expenses, they can use these costs to reduce their taxable income with truck driver tax deductions.
The record-keeping is your responsibility, but knowing exactly how to take these tax deductions can get complicated. If you’re uncertain about how these deductions work, or simply don’t want to bother with the minutiae of tax law, hiring an experienced tax professional can make your taxes easy.
Who Can Claim Truck Driver Tax Deductions?
Company drivers cannot claim any truck driver tax deductions on their tax return. However, as a company driver, most of your expenses should be reimbursed by your employer, or covered by a stipend. If you get a W-2 tax form, then you are considered a company driver, and ineligible for the following deductions.
Owner-operators, who should receive a 1099 tax form for reporting, can claim job-related expenses on their Schedule C. You may also hear the term “self-employed” or “contract” driver—these also refer to owner-operators for commercial transportation. These expenses can vary greatly from driver to driver, and not every expense is treated the same by the tax code, so keep reading to better understand how to claim tax deductions for truck drivers.
11 Truck Driver Tax Deductions
Every time you spend money due to life on the road, you should consider whether that expense qualifies for a tax deduction. Even the little expenses can really add up over the year. Don’t miss out on these tax deductions!
Local drivers often cannot deduct meal expenses unless they are outside of their “tax home,” which is the general area surrounding their home or business headquarters.
Regional or long-haul truckers can claim up to 50% of their meal expenses by carefully tracking each purchase, or up to 80% of their meals if they are subject to the Department of Transportation’s “hours of service” limits.
Alternately, if you find that keeping track of those receipts is too much work (or you’ve lost too many throughout the year!) another option is to deduct a per diem allowance using the IRS rates.
2. Vehicle Expenses
Self-employed truck drivers can deduct truck maintenance and repairs as business expenses. This category includes depreciation, as well as the loan interest for a truck paid for using financing.
Many truck drivers are required to have commercial auto liability insurance, but other trucking-related insurance premiums can qualify as a tax-deductible business expense. This includes cargo insurance, property damage insurance, and even health insurance coverage.
4. Travel Costs
Fuel and other travel-related expenses, including hotels, parking fees, tolls, and more—your actual expenses from being on the road—are all tax deductible.
5. Specialized Clothing or Gear
If you are required to wear any specialized clothing or gear, like a shirt with a logo, a back brace, or steel-toed boots, these may qualify as a business expense. “Everyday” clothing, however, cannot be claimed on your tax return, even if you wear it exclusively for work.
Other purchases like chains, tarps, and ratchet straps also qualify as business costs that can be claimed on your tax return.
6. Cell Phone and Internet
Being on the road requires a method of communication. Any electronics (such as cell phone, laptop, etc) and monthly plans that are exclusively for work are 100% tax deductible. If you also use them for personal purposes, then you can only deduct a portion of your costs.
7. Medical Exams
Many truck drivers are required to have regular medical exams. The out-of-pocket costs qualify as a business expense and can be claimed on your taxes. However, personal medical expenses cannot be claimed—only medical expenses that are directly work related.
8. Association Fees
If you are part of a trucking association or union, the fees or union dues are eligible for tax write-offs.
9. Personal Products
As a truck driver, you may be able to take a tax deduction for making your truck more comfortable with things like a mini-fridge or cooler, your logbook, sleeper berth bedding, GPS, first aid supplies, and more.
If you are required to have a business license, if you pay dispatch fees, and any licensing fees you pay for your CDL, you can claim these on your taxes.
If you pay for training, such as driver training for your CDL, or for any other job-related certifications, make sure you write off these tax deductions during tax season. The only caveat is if you receive reimbursement for any training, it cannot be claimed as an expense. It must be an out-of-pocket expense.
How to Make the Most of Your Tax Deductions
With so many expenses that qualify for truck driver deductions, you need to be able to track these business expenses carefully in the event that you are audited. Owner-operators can be at higher risk for IRS audits, so having verifiable proof of expenses for your tax documents is critical. Small purchases throughout the day are easy to overlook, but they add up—and could significantly reduce your tax burden during tax season!
One of the biggest tips for making your income taxes easy is to keep organized throughout the year. Don’t wait until the end of the year to try to make sense all of your paper receipts! At least once a week, update your records and expense tracking.
A great option for staying organized is to use an app on your phone. There are apps where you can take photos of your receipts and organize them into categories to help track your expenses.
You can take advantage of a transportation management system (TMS) to help with overall tracking of your trips. They might not cover all your expense tracking, but they can help remind you when maintenance is due and organize invoices for self-employment tax payments.
Filing is Easy with S.H. Block Tax Services
Owner-operator truck driver tax deductions can get complicated in a hurry. If you aren’t sure about the specifics of what deductions apply to your situation, it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional. S.H. Block has experience helping truck drivers get the most out of their tax refund, including looking for any other credits you may qualify for, such as the earned income tax credit.
To get help with filing taxes, connect with our office today. Call (410) 872-8376 or fill out this form to schedule a free consultation with an experienced tax accountant. We’ll help keep your trucking business on the road instead of stuck in the paperwork.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.