Can You Claim a Tax Deduction for Your Car Purchase?


Receipt Cat Staff

posted on

March 21, 2023

Purchasing a new car is a major financial investment, especially if you plan to use it for both personal and business purposes. Fortunately, the IRS recognizes this and has created specific rules for tax deductions on cars purchased for work-related purposes.

If you're an independent contractor or small business owner in the market for a new or used car to use for work, it's essential to understand these rules. In this article, we'll guide you through the process of saving money on your taxes when you buy a car for business purposes.

Can you write off a car as a business expense?

While it's not possible to write off the entire cost of a new vehicle purchase on your taxes, you can still deduct a portion of the expense from your gross income.

In addition to the cost of the vehicle, there are other expenses related to car ownership that can be deducted to help lower your tax bill. This includes deductions for vehicle sales tax, as well as other car-related expenses that may be eligible for tax deductions.

Deducting a Vehicle Purchase with Section 179

Section 179 of the IRS code provides taxpayers with the opportunity to write off the cost of certain types of property as a business expense on their income taxes. This incentive was designed to encourage business owners to invest in equipment and other assets.

To qualify for Section 179 deductions, your vehicle — whether new or used — must meet certain requirements. It must weigh less than 6,000 pounds, excluding heavy vehicles such as ambulances and hearses. Additionally, it must be financed and used for business purposes before December 31 of the tax year, and must be used for business at least 50% of the time.

It's important to note that you can only deduct the percentage of the car's cost that is used for business purposes. For example, if you use your car for work 70% of the time, you can only deduct 70% of the cost of the vehicle.

If you're a business owner, gig worker, or self-employed individual looking to take advantage of Section 179 deductions, you'll need to report them using Form 4562 on your tax return.

It's essential to keep in mind that if you choose to deduct vehicle depreciation, you'll need to forgo the standard mileage deduction. This is an important consideration to make when determining which deduction method will provide you with the most significant tax benefits.

How depreciation works under Section 179

In the past, when you purchased an item that was eligible for a write-off, you could only deduct a portion of the cost each year. However, Section 179 offers business owners and self-employed individuals the option to write off the entire cost of qualifying equipment in the same tax year. This applies to business assets such as company machinery, furniture, computers, and even cars.

Naturally, most business owners prefer to deduct the cost of the expense in the year they purchase the asset, rather than spreading out the deductions over several years. Section 179 offers a significant advantage in this regard by allowing business owners to deduct the full cost of the asset in the same tax year, rather than waiting to claim smaller deductions over time.

Limits on Section 179 deductions

Section 179 enables you to deduct 100% of the cost of eligible items, up to a specific limit. In 2021, the total limit is $1,040,000. Once this limit is reached, there is a bonus depreciation incentive. When it comes to cars, the Section 179 limit is $10,100. However, with bonus depreciation, the limit increases to $18,100.

This means that if you purchase a qualifying car for business purposes, you can deduct up to $18,100 of the total cost on your taxes in the year of purchase. It's worth noting that there are restrictions on the types of vehicles that qualify for these deductions, so it's important to research the rules and requirements before making a purchase.

Deducting Car Sales Tax

While you can only take depreciation deductions on your taxes for a car that is used for business purposes, there are other costs you can deduct regardless of why you bought the car. This includes the sales tax you paid on the vehicle.

Writing off Vehicle Sales Tax as a Business Expense

If you drive your new car for work, you can deduct the sales tax you paid on it using Schedule C. Simply enter the amount you paid on line 23.

Writing off Vehicle Sales Tax as an Itemized Personal Deduction

You can also write off your vehicle sales tax if you choose to itemize your personal deductions on your taxes. However, if you choose this option, you cannot deduct the sales tax on Schedule C.

Alternatively, you can deduct the income taxes you paid for the year. You'll need to choose one option, as you cannot take both deductions.

Note that in some states, you may not have to pay sales tax when you purchase a vehicle. These states are Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon.

You can report these deductions on Schedule A, which is used to report your tax-deductible personal expenses. Schedule A also allows you to write off your tag registration or vehicle property tax, known as ad valorem tax. This tax is based on the value of your vehicle or transaction.

In total, your deduction for state and local income, sales, and property taxes is limited to $10,000.

Deducting Interest for Financed Vehicles

When you finance a car for business use, you cannot deduct the entire monthly payment from your taxes. However, you can write off a portion of your car loan interest. Keep in mind that you can only deduct the percentage of the car that is used for business purposes.

To write off your car loan interest, you'll need to deduct actual car expenses instead of the standard mileage rate. We'll cover this in more detail below.

Other Vehicle Tax Deductions

As a business owner, you'll incur ongoing expenses related to your vehicle, such as gas, insurance, and repairs. Luckily, there are two approved methods for deducting these expenses on your taxes: actual car operating expenses and the standard mileage rate. You'll need to choose one of these methods, as you cannot use both at the same time.

Deducting Car Expenses Based on Mileage

The standard mileage rate is a rate set by the IRS that you can use to write off all the miles you drive for business purposes. This option is ideal if you frequently drive for work. The standard mileage rate for 2023 is $0.59 from January to June and $0.63 from July to December.

For example, if you drove 2,500 miles for work from January to May and another 3,500 from June to December, the math would look like this:

$0.59 x 2,500 = $1,475

$0.63 x 3,500 = $2,205

$1,475 + $2,205 = $3,680

This would give you a tax write-off of $3,680 for the year for mileage.

Remember that if you take the standard mileage deduction, you cannot write off vehicle depreciation or interest payments on your auto loan.

Deducting Actual Car Expenses

If you choose to deduct actual car expenses, you can write off costs like gas, miles, insurance, repairs, and maintenance. It's important to keep track of these expenses, as they can add up quickly. Consider using an expense tracker app like Keeper to monitor your spending on your vehicle.

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This post is for informational uses only and is not legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult with an attorney, business advisor, or accountant with concepts and ideas referenced in this post. Receipt Cat assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained in this article.

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