Savings on the Road: Tax Deductions for Truck Drivers

February 15, 2021
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While many truck drivers work hard throughout the year, their work becomes most apparent during tax season. Truck drivers may be eligible to save when it is time to file taxes.

There are some exceptions to savings applicable to truck drivers and limits to how much you can save. Here is what you should know about tax deductions as a truck driver. 

Are Truck Drivers Eligible for Tax Deductions?

Truck drivers are eligible for tax deductions. The IRS has a few factors in place if you are thinking about potential tax deductions. 

First, truck drivers must have a tax home. The IRS considers a tax home to be the entire city or general area where you conduct business or work, regardless of where you maintain your home. 

If you work in more than one place as a truck driver, the IRS considers your tax home to be the general area of your principal place of business or work.

What Deductions can Truck Drivers Claim?

Truck drivers can claim deductions for professional duties that involve truck driving. Also, truck drivers can claim deductions for work-related tasks that can facilitate your truck driving.

Truck Driver Deductions

Truck drivers are eligible for several deductions related to your industry or job duties, in categories such as: 

  • Cell phone and internet usage
  • Fuel and travel
  • Medical
  • Licensing
  • Medical examinations 
  • Truck maintenance or repairs 

Medical exam

The first deduction category that you can use as a deductible is medical exams. You can deduct payments if your employer requires you to get a health exam. 

A second deduction that you can make is for any work-related issue that requires you to see a doctor.

The IRS considers both examples to be business expenses, instead of medical expenses, which aren’t tax-deductible.

License Fees

Second, you can also claim a tax deduction for your paid license fees, including the cost to get the license. 

If your employer wants you to continue your education with a CDL, all of those costs are deductible.

Food while traveling

Third, you can claim a deduction for food consumed while traveling. The IRS will allow you to claim a per diem rate, which you can use for food expenses. For the 2020 tax year, this rate is $63 daily. You can deduct this same amount for every day worked while traveling.

This category can quickly add up, so you may want to keep receipts in a place where they’re easy to organize. 

There’s one class of truck drivers that can’t use food costs while traveling as a deductible. Local drivers can’t use food costs as a deductible because they can eat at home after driving. 

Repairs and Maintenance

If you’re a truck driver and paid to maintain or repair your truck, you can claim the costs as a deductible. This applies whether you’re a company driver or an owner-operator. 

You can claim deductibles for: 

  • Batteries
  • Cleaning costs
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Parts 
  • Repairs
  • Tires

Owner-operators can claim even more deductibles for maintenance and repairs. You can also claim a deductible for costs associated with insurance premiums and loan interest (if applicable).

While you can claim deductibles for maintenance and repair costs, there’s one exception. You aren’t eligible for deductibles for maintenance and repairs if you repair your truck yourself.

Association Dues

Truck drivers can also use association dues as deductibles. The fees you can deduct are those paid for joining a trucking group or union. 

You can’t claim a deduction for association dues if they weren’t a requirement for your employer. To get the deduction, you’ll provide proof that the association is a membership or that being part of the association helps your trucking career.

Fuel and Travel

There are multiple ways that truck drivers can receive deductions for fuel and travel expenses. 

Truck drivers are eligible to deduct travel expenses incurred or paid, as long as the work assignment is temporary. 

Owner-operators of trucks can claim deductions for miles driven. Owner-operators can also deduct expenses for truck operation, for work-related duties such as:

  • Fuel
  • Scales
  • Tolls

Out-of-pocket fuel costs of more than $100 are also deductible. You’ll claim this if your company doesn’t reimburse you for those expenses.

Travel expenses may seem a bit less clear given how frequently you’re commuting. However, the IRS allows self-employed drivers and owner-operators to deduct certain “travel expenses.” These include a per diem for meals, plus accommodations, tolls, and parking.

Finally, truck drivers can’t deduct travel expenses with indefinite work assignments. The IRS considers work assignments lasting longer than one year indefinite.

Cell Phone and Internet

Truck drivers can receive deductions for cell phone and internet usage and deduct up to 50% of cell phone usage payments. You can do so whether you used your phone for personal reasons or work-related reasons.

You can also receive a deduction for your internet costs. As with cell phones, you can deduct up to 50% for internet costs. Finally, if you purchased a new laptop or new phone during the current tax year, you can deduct the entire cost of either. 

Standard Deduction

On top of all the previous deductions available to you, you can also take a standard deduction. The standard deduction for the 2020 tax year is: 

  • $12,400 for single taxpayers
  • $12,400 for married taxpayers filing separately
  • $18,650 for heads of households
  • $24,800 for married taxpayers filing jointly
  • $24,800 for qualifying widows or qualifying widowers

Non-deductible Trucking Expenses

While you can claim a few deductions as a truck driver, a few items aren’t deductible. As a truck driver, you aren’t eligible for deductions for:

  • Clothing that you can adapt for daily wear
  • Commuting costs to company headquarters (however, some companies may reimburse commuting to the truck yard)
  • Home phone line
  • Reimbursed expenses by your employer

Owner-operators can’t deduct: 

  • Downtime
  • Income lost as a result of deadhead or unpaid mileage
  • Time spent working on their truck equipment

Don’t Miss Out on Valuable Tax Savings!

As a truck driver, it’s critical that you know which tax deductions you’re eligible for so you don’t miss out on potential tax savings. 

Are you looking for professional guidance on your taxes this year? If so, consider working with the skilled accountants and bookkeepers at 1-800Accountant for all of your commercial truck tax needs.

This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. 1-800Accountant assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.