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Hi--

I've been searching the boards (and the IRS documents) for an answer to this question, but haven't come up with anything yet.

1. I do a great deal of charity work and I know that my miles are deductible, but exactly *what* are the criteria for that. For example, yesterday, I went to one of the 501C3's I work for for a meeting; on the way home I swung by Home Depot. What part of that trip can I deduct? Any of it? All of it? Just the distance between my house and the c3? (ie round trip).

With my tax situation and the work I do, this adds up to quite a bit of money, so I want to be able to take advantage of this. (although, I realize quite is a relative term).

2. How do people go about keeping track of their mileage? I have a notebook in the car that I write down the miles (start and end), date, purpose, but this gets messy and drives me crazy. Plus, I haven't totally trained myself to write everything down, and so I'll forget. (I'm an out of sight/ out of mind kinda person.)

Thanks in advance

bleplatt

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I think the main thing is that you keep a contemporary record of your mileage. That is, you can't sit down next February and say, "Let's see, I think I worked at the soup kitchen three times in October, that would be 30 miles." Keeping a notebook in the car is a good plan, but you may be overdoing it with the numbers. After all, the soup kitchen doesn't move; if it's 5 miles from your house in October, it's also 5 miles in December. My wife does lots of charity stuff: thrift shop, school, police department - and she just notes on her calendar where she goes on which days. At the end of the year, it's just a matter of a little arithmetic to come up with a mileage total. She does not write down starting and ending mileage numbers for each trip, but just counts trips and uses the known distance. (Obviously, that only works if you keep going to the same place, over and over.) As for multipurpose trips (stopping at the grocery store on the way home) I think it's still fair in that case to count the home-to-charity round trip distance.

Lorenzo
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Keep that notebook and keep training yourself to write down the start/stop, date, purpose of each business- or volunteer-related trip.

There's more info from the IRS at http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=105708,00.html

Your example of "swinging by" Home Depot while using your car to go to a volunteer activity -- I don't know. Seems to me that if it adds 1 mile to a 15 mile round trip, it's hardly worth factoring out. But if it's the other way around...

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How do people go about keeping track of their mileage? I have a notebook in the car that I write down the miles (start and end), date, purpose, but this gets messy and drives me crazy. Plus, I haven't totally trained myself to write everything down, and so I'll forget. (I'm an out of sight/ out of mind kinda person.)

Instead of using a paper notebook, you can use a handheld PDA. There are several programs, both free and for sale, that assist you with tracking mileage. Each program is a little different, but essentially you enter the date, the purpose, the mileage (or you can probably put in odometer readings and the mileage will be calculated for you). The beauty of such software is that you can synchronize it to your computer, and most probably export all of your mileage information for the year to a program like Excel. Then it's just a matter of adding up all the miles to get your year-end report.

Bill
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I just put my miles into my regular weekly calendar. Any kind of reasonably organized record of your mileage would be acceptable to the IRS. You don't need to keep gas receipts and such, especially since each tank of gas for most people will be used up by both personal and business/charitable miles. But if you were going on a long, deductible trip, I'm sure gas receipts would be helpful.
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But if you were going on a long, deductible trip, I'm sure gas receipts would be helpful.

Not really. You can deduct business- or charity-related use of your car in one of two ways: mileage rate or actual expense method. You can't mix 'em up. For most people, keeping a good record of mileage will do it.

Most office supply stores have mileage record booklets, which some might find easier to use and keep readable than a plain notebook.
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