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Keeping Records

August 29, 2002

When you became a truck driver or Owner Operator, tax time took on a whole new meaning. There are a number of special rules and deductions available to truckers that other traveling business people don't get. Too many times, when you or someone not familiar with the trucking industry does your taxes these deductions are not taken. Sometimes they are misrepresented. The final analyses are, you over pay your taxes.

The Internal Revenue Service says, "You must keep records so that you can prepare a complete and accurate income tax return." Record keeping today has become a very sophisticated task. There are many computer programs and accountants that claim to do truckers bookkeeping and income taxes. Most computer programs and accountants are not really trucker oriented.

Since you are reading this, you either own or thinking about owning The Truckers Helper. It is a computer bookkeeping program, designed by a trucker, programed by a trucker, and sold by a trucker, for truckers.

I graduated from college with a degree in accounting. After working for the government for eleven and a half years, I then owned, and drove trucks for more than 20 years. I still have a valid CDL and drive once in a while for customers. Truckers are my only customers.

What makes something a deductible expense? The IRS defines travel expenses as any "ordinary and necessary expenses that you pay while traveling away from home for your business or profession." An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your field of business, trade or profession. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate to your business. An expense does not have to be indispensable to be considered necessary. However, you cannot deduct expenses to the extent that they are lavish or extravagant.

Aside from the IRS, why would you keep records and receipts? Driving or owning a truck is a business. As such running a business, and running it correctly, is important to making a profit. Keeping expense records on a good computer program, and at the time you acquire them, is very important. A good business person knows where they are, where they have been and where they are going. In other words, how much you have spent and how much it costs to operate at all times.

You do not need to keep receipts for food, eating, tips or drinks. The standard meal allowance, Per Diem, will cover that. All other receipts must be kept in a safe place and keep organized.

Sometimes you incur expenses where you do not get a receipt. In such cases, the IRS says to make your own record. For instance, when doing your laundry, write down the place and the cost. Include the cost of the laundry soaps and the receipts when you buy it. Other things you may not get a receipt for: Lumpers, phone calls, drive through truck washes, chrome polishers, just be sure to document the expense.

A computer program like The Truckers Helper will enable you to always keep up with past expenses. What expenses cost and help you to budget in the future when you must get things done for the truck. Along with that you must have a good accountant to do your income taxes.

The National Society of Accountants says, "your accountant must become involved in your personal financial planning. He must be a tax and financial reporting specialist. He must understand your business. Most of all your accountant must be your friend."

Happy motoring and I will...See you at the top!

Russell E. Fullingim, CTP
P.O. BOX 497
Corning, CA. 96021

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