How to Deduct the Business-Use of Your Car this Year

Many business owners and employees have to use a personal car for business purposes, and luckily it’s quite simple to claim these as business expenses following IRS regulations. In order to do so, it’s paramount that you keep accurate mileage and depreciation records. If you’rereading this thinking, “Oh no, I haven’t kept track of any of that this year.”You may have to wait until next year, but you have the ability to begin your record keeping soon, on January 1.

If you use your car for only business purposes, you can deduct its entire cost of operation, with some limitations discussed below. If you use your car for both business and personal purposes, you may only deduct the costs from business use.

In both cases, everything must be documented and strictly business-related. Keep reading for more on this to get started and be sure to consult with a tax advisor. Each individual business situation is unique and can be very complex, so expert advice will definitely help ensure you are following all the rules correctly.

Keep Detailed Records

The IRS is very detail-oriented, and they expect you to be the same. Keep a record of all your expenses and business miles that you want to write off with a vehicle expense log. You can pick one of these up at most office supply or stationery stores. There are also a number of apps available for mileage tracking that will do it for you.

Items to support the deductions you claim include receipts, canceled checks, and bills. For each business trip in the car,be sure to log the date, miles traveled, destination, and the purpose, such as whether it is for business, personal use, or your commute. It’s best to have a car with great MPG,because there is a standard deduction per mile. For more information on record keeping, you can check out Topic No. 305 from the IRS.

Standard Mileage Rate

The IRS allows self-employed individuals and employees to use a standard mileage rate when submitting business claims.To use the standard mileage rate for a car, you must own or lease the car and use it in within the first year of your business. It’s fairly simple to track your total mileage for the year–write down the odometer reading of the first day you start using the car for business purposes and on the day the year ends.

Business miles include anything actually driven for business, such as visiting a client, going to the bank, or meeting with an accountant or lawyer. All of this counts towards your deduction, as well as the cost of parking fees and tolls you pay for the business.

If you’re self-employed, you can deduct your car loan interest that’s related to the business use of the car. Commuting time and running personal errands is travel that is not considered business related. For the most up-to-date standard mileage rate, check out Publication 463 from the IRS.

Actual Vehicle Expenses

The other method for claiming your personal car for business use is called the actual expense method. To utilize this, you must determine the actual cost to own and operate the car for business purposes. This includes gas, oil, repairs, insurance, licenses, tires,registration fees, and lease payments from the total business miles driven.

Depreciation

Depreciation is the amount you can deduct overtime for standard wear and tear the vehicle obtains over time. If you use the standard mileage rate, you cannot deduct depreciation on the vehicle,unless you use your car for 50% or less for business reasons.

Typically, the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System is the only method that can be used if your car was placed in service after 1986, but be sure to check with a tax advisor. Depreciation can be a very complicated subject and you want to make sure you are doing it right for your business. For more information, refer to TopicNo. 704 from the IRS.

Ownership

Knowing the different types of car ownership will help you determine how to claim your car for business use the correct way. A sole proprietor or self-employed owner is one that is a single-member LLC and files a Schedule C their personal tax return. Like this,you can choose to use either the standard mileage rate or actual expense method.

An S Corporation/C Corporation requires a vehicle used for business to be owned by the corporation or by an employee. The method of claiming the deduction will depend on this ownership. If the vehicle is owned by an employee or a shareholder-employee, they can submit a request for reimbursement to their employer based on their documented business miles.

Typically, the corporation or business can then reimburse the employee based on the standard rate. It’s also generally easier for a business to allow an employee to use their own personal vehicle for work and submit an expense reimbursement request. This puts the responsibility of record-keeping on the employee, which saves time and money for the employer.

Sam Casteris is a small business owner and freelance writer operating out of Phoenix, AZ. You can find more of her work on Contently.

Are You Promoting Vehicle Safety?

Whether you build cars and trucks or sell them, driving home the message of vehicle safety never gets old.

How do you make sure consumers are aware of the different safety features you offer? Even more important, how do you entice them to use such features?

Although you do not want to put fear in the minds of drivers, you do want them cognizant of potential dangers.

So, are you promoting vehicle safety?

Using Your Website to Drive More Business in Your Direction

Pre-Internet, builders and dealers relied on ads and word-of-mouth marketing to make sales. Although those still work to this day, the web changed how making and selling vehicles works.

For example, do you know how backup camera systems offer more safety in the vehicles they ride in?

With such a system, drivers are able to do the following:

  • See other drivers – Even a small fender-bender has potential to cause problems. Not only is there damage to one or both vehicles, but injuries can occur at slow speeds. The backup camera system allows the driver going in reverse to see oncoming vehicles.
  • See pedestrians – It is not uncommon for pedestrians to dart in and out of traffic. This is especially the case when they are in crowded parking lots such as stores and malls. The backup camera system assists the driver in locating those that he or she may otherwise miss.
  • See stationery poles and other objects – Stationery objects can present problems too. Hitting a pole or other such object backing up can cause more than a scratch or two to your vehicle. That backup camera system will show you how close you are getting to the object before hitting it.

In using the Internet to promote the brand of vehicles you make or sell, be sure to have a website that offers:

  • Easy maneuverability – If your site is hard to maneuver around, do you expect visitors to stay long? Review your site to make sure you do not have broken links, pages that load too slow, and copy that is as free of errors.
  • Contact info – There is a good chance some visitors to your site have questions about a vehicle and safety. As a result, be sure that you provide them with easy to find contact information. Nothing irritates an online visitor more than when they have to hunt for information.

Socializing the Vehicle Safety Experience

You also want to be sure that you do not miss out on all that social media offers your brand.

Whether a vehicle maker or one selling cars and trucks; use social media to the fullest extent. This will allow you to reach out to the millions of consumers spending time on social media sites.

Among some of the best ones to drive forward with:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Google+

You should also incorporate images and even videos into your posts.

If promoting safety like lane-departure warning systems, include a link to a video. This helps potential buyers of your brand can see how the system can help prevent accidents.

Last, don’t be afraid to interact with consumers when they leave feedback or question on any of your pages.

By having dialogue with consumers, you are more driven to make sales.

 

Drive More Sales With Social Media

car_tabletMany people wouldn’t think of going online and visiting their social media pages to buy a car. But it’s an idea that has been catching on.

The negative experiences many of consumers have had while shopping for cars at dealerships has spurred the growth of online auto shopping on a variety of sites.

Costco Auto Program

Costco has an online auto program, frequently advertised on its company social media pages, to help its members buy new and used cars online. They advertise partnerships with more than 3,000 auto dealerships throughout North America.

Once you get a price you like, your cost is guaranteed when you arrive at the dealership. On top of that, participating Costco members get to avail themselves of any and all current manufacturer’s buying incentives.

With those kinds of enticing benefits, it’s no wonder why savvy Costco members take advantage of online offers when it comes time for them to purchase a new or used vehicle.

The site is easy to use, too. When you first visit the home page, you simply enter your zip code. From there, you can browse my make, model, color, year, condition (new or used), dealer, and more. The more conditions you set up, the narrower your choices are, and the better you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for at a dealership near you.

Of course, ultimately, you do still have to visit the dealership to actually buy the car.

eBay Motors

eBay has had a motor vehicle category in its listings almost since its inception. When looking at the article “Can you buy a car without ever going to a dealership?” the answer is yes; if you buy it on eBay.

There are many reasons why people buy and sell cars on eBay. First, it’s inexpensive. Second, many people are in the automotive buying and selling business, and they don’t care too much what condition an auto is in before they buy it. Third, it provides yet another way to advertise a car for sale and get the ad out in front of thousands of potential buyers.

Though eBay isn’t a social media outlet per se, it does operate a very active and successful buyer’s guide and blog that people can subscribe to. This blog attracts buyers to the site and to individual car sale listings as well.

As with other online car buying and selling tools, a face to face interaction is still required to complete the purchase.

Facebook Groups

There are loads of Facebook selling groups that are targeted in specific ways.

Some are for local folks who live in a particular region, some are for people who share a common hobby – such as automotive tinkering – and others are for people who just want to discuss specific topics, like vehicles.

Increasingly, Facebook users are signing up with groups and posting items like cars for sale. The ads are free as long as they are posted on the group page, and members understand that they can express interest and see the vehicles in person if they so choose.

Unless you’re willing to buy a car completely unseen except for some online photos, it doesn’t make sense to buy a car without test driving it in person.

Maybe someday in the future there will be virtual reality classified ads for social media.

Until then, you still more times than not have to get in your car to drive to see the new car you’re thinking of buying.

About the Author: Kate Supino writes extensively on business and buying trends in the U.S.

Automakers Pull Forward with Better Marketing Tactics

social_carsWhen it comes to informing drivers about the latest model cars, automakers from every manufacturer are turning to marketing and social media to spread the word.

With the right social media marketing plan in place, automakers are reaching a larger audience than ever before.

Here are just a few ways the auto industry is putting social media marketing in the driver’s seat:

Automakers on Social Media

As social media continues to gain in popularity, entire industries are focusing their attention on social media – including the auto industry.

Some of the top automotive manufacturers in the world are using social media on a regular basis to reach out to customers and promote their brands.

For example, Ford stays connected with its customers by answering questions about its brand on Facebook. The company even promoted the new Ford Fusion with a combination of Facebook and primetime television advertising.

Volkswagen is also jumping on the social media bandwagon by posting videos and photos on Youtube and Pinterest. Likewise, Audi turns to Twitter regularly to increase customer engagement.

With social media, the marketing options are endless.

Showcasing New Models

Creating buzz about a new model release is a top marketing priority for every automaker out there. With social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, automakers can put their newest model cars, trucks, and SUVs in the spotlight well before their release dates.

As the following article looks at, whether automakers want to post an article on 5 new cars that offer great value via Facebook or they want to show sneak peeks of a brand new model SUV on Instagram, social media is the perfect place to grab some serious attention.

Answering Questions and Monitoring Comments

Much like the Ford example above, many automakers are using social media as a real-time FAQ page to answer questions about their brands. Automakers are encouraging their customers to reach out through Facebook and Twitter with any and all questions they might have.

In addition, automakers are also monitoring their social accounts for feedback about their brands. This helps the auto industry predict trends as well as search for possible quality control issues.

Social transparency like this helps automakers build a social presence, which is a big marketing advantage.

Promoting Upcoming Sales

When new inventory starts rolling off the assembly line, automakers have to make sure there’s room on the lot by offering discounts on current models. Social media is an effective way to promote sales events and discounts to a massive audience.

For example, automakers can post everything from year-end deals to price cuts to attractive lease and finance terms through their social accounts.

Creating Brand Loyalty

All of the social media marketing options mentioned above help automakers build brand loyalty. With the amount of competition there is in the auto industry, brand loyalty is more important than ever before.

By keeping up with posts, answering questions, responding to comments, and making social media a go-to communications resource, automakers can create long lasting relationships with their customers.

From Facebook to Twitter and every social stop in between, automakers are driving towards marketing success with social media.

About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including social media and the auto industry.

Is Your New Vehicle Driven to Safety?

newcarIf you’re in the market for a new vehicle, you’ll no doubt be asking lots of questions about the vehicle’s safety features. If not you should be.

Vehicle accidents account for more than 40,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Many of those might have been avoided with the use of certain safety features. Thankfully, there’s a new trend for improving vehicle safety in this country. This trend can be picked up by consumers by asking questions, doing research online, and even using the social media and marketing tools that automakers are deploying more and more of these days.

Here are some of the latest and greatest features that can help protect you and your family:

State Farm’s Steer Clear Program

State Farm’s Steer Clear Program is designed for newer drivers under the age of 25, with three years or less driving experience. The program necessitates watching a DVD, fulfilling a driver’s trip log, and pledging safe driving for the future, as well as other requirements. In exchange for successful completion of the program, State Farm customers receive a discount on their insurance premiums.

It’s a simple way for younger drivers to brush up on their road and vehicle knowledge while enjoying a discount reward in the process.

Air Bag Warning Lights

Most parents know better than to seat a young child weighing less than 50 pounds in the front of the vehicle. But just in case, many front car passenger seats are now equipped with weight sensors that let drivers know when the passenger side air bag is deactivated due to insufficient weight.

If the light is on, then the child is too small and should be seated in the back.

Backing Up Cameras and Sensors

Unfortunately, it seems that every year smaller children are hurt or worse when a driver unwittingly backs into them. Drivers can’t see small children behind their bumper, and children playing in driveways or running loose in parking lots are susceptible to being unnoticed.

Backing up cameras and sensors give vision to drivers where they couldn’t see before. Anything in the way, including pets and bicycles causes the sensor to go off, alerting the driver to stop.

Automatic Headlights

In the past, drivers might have resisted turning on their headlights during dawn or dusk, due to the risk of forgetting to turn them back off again and returning to their vehicle to find a dead battery.

Since the advent of automatic headlights that turn off automatically after the engine has been shut down after a certain amount of time, drivers can feel comfortable leaving their headlights on all the time. This increases visibility and decreases the incidence of motor vehicle collisions.

Forward Collision Warning Systems

Some newer vehicles are equipped with forward collision warning systems that are designed to give an audible warning sound if your vehicle gets dangerously close to the vehicle in front of you, or even an inanimate object.

In these days of vehicle distraction, this system could make the difference between life and death.

As the following article looks at, when you’re ready to negotiate the price of a new car for you or a loved one, don’t forget to factor in any safety features the car may have.

The extra money to get those features is worth more than any amount you may save on another vehicle.

And along the way, do your research (including using marketing and social media tools) so that you’re knowledgeable about the vehicle you’re about to call your ride for years to come.

About the Autho: Kate Supino writes about best business practices, including programs and products put in place to protect the health and safety of consumers.