March 3, 2015

You have a choice between using the business standard mileage rate or actual expenses when calculating the fixed and operating costs of an automobile. Once you select a method, you must use that method for the entire tax year.

There are some limitations on the eligibility to use the business standard mileage rate. A taxpayer cannot choose the standard mileage rate and:

  • Use it to calculate the deductible expenses of five or more automobiles owned or leased by the taxpayer and used simultaneously in a fleet-type operation
  • Claim depreciation using a method other than straight line for the automobile’s estimated useful life
  • Claim a Section 179 expense deduction
  • Claim an additional first-year depreciation allowance, also known as bonus depreciation
  • Use the MACRS (modified accelerated cost recovery system) or ACRS method for the automobile

Items 2 through 5 above relate to a situation in which the vehicle owner was claiming actual business auto expenses but then wanted to change to the business standard deduction method. Although you are allowed to change back and forth each year between the standard deduction method and the actual expense method, you cannot do so if items 2 through 5 pertain to you.

If that is the case, you must stay with the actual expense method.

The business standard mileage rate generally changes each year as the cost of operating a vehicle changes. The business standard mileage rate for 2014 was 56 cents per mile. That rate has been increased to 57.5 cents per mile for 2015.

The fluctuating cost of gasoline is one of the reasons for the rate change, as well as the increase in the cost of vehicles. The IRS sends out a notice toward the end of each year informing the general public of the new rate for the upcoming year.

This article was originally posted on March 3, 2015 and the information may no longer be current. For questions, please contact GRF CPAs & Advisors at