In recognition of the fact that truck drivers incur unusual and often significant amounts of business expenses, the IRS offers multiple tax deductions for these drivers' use. Most of these deductions are available to drivers working for a company and self-employed drivers, but some of them only apply to self-employed drivers. Additionally, any employer-reimbursed expenses are not deductible.
For a truck driver to claim a deduction, they must have what the IRS refers to as a "tax home". This means that the driver must have a permanent location in which they receive mail and use to pay their taxes.
Truck Driver Tax Deductions
The majority of tax deductions available to truck drives are business deductions. However, because of the nature of truck driving, these deductions are often applicable to more aspects of a driver's employment than for other types of employees.
- Telephone or Internet Access Fees: The IRS recognizes that mobile phones and wireless internet laptops are necessary for most truck drivers. However, it also believes that these tools will also be used for personal purposes while drivers are on the road. Therefore, it only allows drivers to deduct up to 50 percent of the cost of access fees. The entire cost of the actual phone or laptop required for work is deductible.
- Subscriptions to Trucking-Related Publications: Because these publications often discuss new regulations and information relevant to the field, the IRS allows drivers to deduct their full cost. In general, a driver should be able to demonstrate that the main or only reason they subscribe to the publication is because of its pertinence to their employment.
- Association Dues: Most truck drivers are required to be affiliated with unions or other collective trucking groups. The dues required for membership are entirely deductible. Voluntary memberships may also be deductible, but only if the employee can demonstrate that they assist in their career or are a regular membership in the industry.
- Medical Examinations: Drivers required to undergo medical examinations for employment can deduct any out-of-pocket costs they incur. These deductions are taken as a business expense and not a medical expense, and, as such, do not need to meet the minimum threshold required to deduct a medical expense.
- Licensing Fees: The costs associated with obtaining and maintaining a commercial driver's license (CDL) is entirely deductible. Similarly, the costs of any continuing education required to maintain a license with an employer, state or federal agency are deductible.
- Travel Expenses: This category of deduction is broad. Expenses a driver incurs while on the road and working are deductible. This includes transportation to and from meals or lodging as well as any tips paid. It also includes the costs of postage for any mailings required to be sent from the driver's on-road location to their employer. Toll booth payments and truck parking costs are included in this category.
- Per-Diem Meal Costs: The IRS allows drivers to deduct the specific amount of the costs of their meals while on the road and working or a uniform, per-diem cost. As of 2011, the per-diem cost was $46.00 per day. Therefore, every day a driver was on the road and was required to eat away from home entitles the driver to a $46.00 deduction.
- Truck Maintenance Costs: Expenses associated with truck maintenance and cleaning are deductible regardless of whether the driver leases or owns the truck or works for an employer. This deduction includes: batteries, tires, sponges, cleaning supplies, CB repairs, truck parts and repairs.
- Fuel: Drivers can deduct the cost of fuel they pay for out-of-pocket and which is not reimbursed as long as that cost exceeds $100.00.
- Personal Necessities: Personal items a driver requires to work on the road are deductible. These include: flashlights, binders, calculators, overalls or other specialized clothing, luggage, log book papers, coolers for food, gloves and sunglasses.
Deductions for Owner-Operators
Truck owner and operators have additional deductions available to them. These truck drivers can deduct the cost of insurance premium payments, leasing fees for the truck and interest payments made on the loan used for the truck's purchase.
Owner-operators can also deduct the depreciation amount the truck sustained over the year. This deduction is available each year that the truck is owned, used and in which it depreciates in value.
Claiming Your Truck Driving Deductions
As a truck driver, you have several deductions available for your taxes that were specifically designed for your employment. Seek legal or financial advice if you are unsure what deductions apply to your situation.