Every year, professional truck drivers search for tax deductions that they can claim when they file their income taxes.
Tax laws change periodically, so we encourage you to consult your tax professional to find out how to take tax deductions on whatever is tax deductible.
Some purchases that didn’t used to be tax deductible are now and some purchases that used to be tax deductible no longer are.
Because he was not on the road overnight as a local driver, he didn’t take as many tax deductions as he used to.
Particularly, he no longer eats restaurant meals on the road (because Vicki packs a meal for him to eat each day).
Your own situation with truck driver taxes may vary greatly depending on the nature of your work and where you live.
Besides our standard disclaimer, we are providing the information below with the additional disclaimer that
- we are not CPAs, accountants or bookkeepers,
- the rules regarding what qualifies for filing may change from year to year,
- owner operators (drivers who own their trucks or their own trucking business) may be able to deduct more expenses than company drivers, and
- you will need to double-check all planned tax deductions for yourself.
What is a Tax Deduction?
According to Wikipedia,
“A tax deduction or a tax-deductible expense affects a taxpayer’s income tax. [It] represents an expense incurred by a taxpayer. They are variable amounts that you can subtract, or deduct, from your gross income. It is subtracted from gross income when the taxpayer computes his or her income taxes. As a result, the tax deduction will lower overall taxable income and thus lower the amount of tax paid.”(1)
There are many items that professional truck drivers use in the course of their work that can legitimately be claimed as a tax deduction.
Mike says that in the past, he has generally always filed with a standard deduction as we did not have enough to itemize.
Truckers who are homeless should look at all of their deductions to see if itemizing helps.
Old-time gold prospectors used to proclaim, “There’s gold in them thar hills.”
Mike says that “there is money in those receipts.”
This refers to the purchases that he makes on the road during the course of a year.
Why take a standard deduction if itemizing will allow you to lower your taxable income for income tax purposes?
If you could lower your tax bill, wouldn’t you?
Our first piece of advice (even if you can only use it this year for next year’s taxes) is to keep all of your receipts in a well-organized file.
Vicki uses an expandable file folder like the one shown here from Amazon.com, with which we have an affiliate relationship.
If the files became excessively thick, requiring a larger file folder, she might use one like this.
Inside the expandable file folder, you may wish to have separate files or envelopes for deductible and non-deductible expenses.
We recommend that as a receipt is obtained, you file it with any notes regarding how it may affect taxes.
Helpful hint: Do not just throw your receipts in an old box or bag to sort through at the end of the year.
Trust us, you won’t remember where you bought things or what the receipts were for!
If you have an accountant, he or she won’t have a clue either.
Organize as you go for efficiency.
We cover record keeping in more detail elsewhere.
What We Have Deducted in Years Past
- We deducted the cost of membership in the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) each year we have been members.
- A CB radio, an inverter, a camera, a truckers atlas, an ice chest, truck washes paid for out of pocket, showers paid for out of pocket, a new sleeping bag, a new portable toilet, a hot pot, and cell phones are all items that we have claimed as tax deductions in years past.
- We did not deduct cell phone service because most of the usage on our phones was (and still is) personal, not for business purposes. Furthermore, in addition to getting a certain number of minutes per month for non-network calls, Mike has our cell phone service plan set to where we can call up to 10 different non-network phone numbers for free. He has decided that one of them is his employer’s phone number.
Truck and Trucking Expenses
In the past, Mike’s trucking companies have paid for his DOT medical exams and everything associated with truck and trailer purchases and services.
We can personally deduct things that we pay for like window cleaner and paper towels that Mike uses for cleaning lights and mirrors, WD-40, and office supplies that Mike uses in the course of his job.
If Mike purchased any uniforms out of pocket (like he did when he worked for Schneider), he would put them on the potential deduction list.
When Vicki rode with Mike, he could deduct his meals but not hers.
Working Out Of Your Home State?
For years, Mike worked for Epes Transport (based in Greensboro, NC) but maintained a home in South Carolina.
Because of the way that North Carolina did their taxes, Mike did not have to file a separate return for that state.
All he had to do was file one in our home state.
However, when Mike started working locally for a trucking company in Georgia, he had to file two state income tax returns:
- one in our home state of South Carolina and
- one in the state of his employer.
That was because of how Georgia’s tax code is written.
If you live in one state and work out of another, be aware of all returns you need to file.
Tax Preparation Software
For years, we have used TurboTax to file our tax returns electronically.
While filing the federal return is free, filing a state return costs money.
We have listed here two versions of TurboTax:
- one that may be suitable for company drivers; and
- one that may be suitable for owner-operators.
One of the nice things about filing trucker taxes with tax deductions electronically is that refunds are issued faster than they are by mailing in paperwork.
Truckers who use TurboTax don’t have to go looking for a post office box or stamps when the tax deadline draws near.
Just finalize your return and submit. Done!
For more information, click
- this link to search the IRS website for “truck driver” via Google or
- this link to search the IRS website for “truck driver” on their website.
Also, please consult a knowledgeable tax preparer.
Update: Tax updates for owner operators.
Money saving tip: The more expenses you can deduct from your income as legitimately being job related, the lower your tax burden will be and potentially the more you will get back on your refund.
“Tax avoidance is the legal utilization of the tax regime to one’s own advantage, to reduce the amount of tax that is payable by means that are within the law. By contrast, tax evasion is the general term for efforts to not pay taxes by illegal means.”(2)
Hopefully, you will take all of the tax deductions that you are entitled to, to save as much money as possible on your tax bill.