Truck drivers can benefit from a number of tax deductions specific to their profession.
For information on the third coronavirus relief package, please visit our “American Rescue Plan: What Does it Mean for You and a Third Stimulus Check” blog post.
As a truck driver, you rack up a considerable number of expenses on the road — from fueling up to chowing down. Tax season is a chance to claim truck driver tax deductions and get some of that money back.
Who can claim truck driver tax deductions?
If you're an employee of a trucking company and receive a W-2 at the end of the year, unfortunately, none of your job-related expenses are tax-deductible. If you're a self-employed driver, on the other hand, you can deduct expenses related to your work.
As an owner/operator, you should receive a 1099-NEC at year-end from any customer that paid you more than $600 during the year. You'll use those 1099s, plus your own records of income and expenses, to report your trucking income and expenses on Schedule C. You may also need to complete Schedule SE to report self-employment taxes. You'll file both of these forms along with your Form 1040 tax return.
Common truck driver tax deductions
Here are some common deductions you may be able to claim.
Many truck drivers are part of a union or other trucking association. You can deduct any required fees to belong to a union or group, as long as they're required for business or help your trucking career.
Phones, tablets, and laptops you use exclusively for work are 100% deductible, so you can claim the full cost of the device and your monthly data or internet plan. If you use the device for both business and personal purposes, you can only deduct the business percentage of your expenses.
Clothing you wear for everyday use isn't deductible — even if you only wear it for work. But specialized clothing and safety gear required for your work, such as goggles or back braces, are tax-deductible.
Many drivers pay for training to obtain or maintain a CDL license or other advanced certifications. As long as you use this education to improve your skills in your current line of work or it's required for your job, you can deduct the cost.
Tools and equipment
Any tools or equipment you need for your trucking business are deductible, including:
- Ratchet straps
- Bungee cords
- Duct tape
- Tire irons
In addition to the commercial auto liability and property damage insurance you're required to maintain on your truck, you may also purchase insurance to cover cargo or lost income due to a business interruption. You can deduct these premiums as a business expense.
You may also have to pay for your own health insurance coverage. This is deductible but not as a business expense. Instead, you deduct the cost of health, dental, and vision insurance for you, your spouse, and your dependents on Schedule 1 Form 1040.
Whether you can deduct meals depends on whether you drive locally or long distance. The first step is to determine your "tax home." This is usually your home address or business headquarters. You can only deduct meals while away from your tax home overnight, or at least long enough to require a stop to sleep or rest. This means local drivers can't deduct food and drink costs, but long-distance drivers can.
You have two options for deducting meals: the actual expense method or the per diem allowance. Deducting the actual expense method requires that you keep track of what you spend on meals, including tips and tax.
While the IRS allows most industries to deduct 50% of meals, drivers subject to the Department of Transportation’s “hours of service” limits, can claim 80% of their actual meal expenses. The hours of service rule requires drivers who have driven a certain amount of hours to stop and rest for an assigned period of time.
The per diem method is less work. Instead of keeping expenses for every meal, you can deduct a set amount per day. That set amount varies depending on where and when you travel.
Other travel costs you incur while you’re away from your tax home overnight (or long enough to require rest) are deductible. This can include:
- Hotels or other accommodations
Although the IRS has a per diem rate for lodging in other industries, truck drivers are required to claim actual lodging expenses. They cannot claim the per diem rate the way they can with meal expenses.
Many drivers must get regular medical exams as a condition of their work. Out-of-pocket costs for these required exams are deductible business expenses. Other regular medical expenses, such as doctor or hospital visits and medications, are only deductible if you itemize deductions on Schedule A.
Traditional office expenses for your trucking business are deductible. This might include:
- Paper and pens
- Faxing and photocopying
- Cost of accounting software, such as QuickBooks
A lot of smaller purchases are necessary for life on the road. This might include a:
- Cooler or minifridge to store food and water
- Alarm clock
- Cleaning supplies
You can also deduct expenses for showering or doing laundry while traveling for business. Keep track of these expenses, as they can really add up.
If you subscribe to trucking-related publications, you can deduct the full cost of your subscription.
Taxes and licenses
You can deduct any taxes and licenses you pay for your business, including the Heavy Highway Vehicle Use Tax and the cost of maintaining a CDL license.
The IRS considers a semitruck to be a qualified non-personal-use vehicle. This means you can claim all the actual expenses of operating the vehicle, including:
- Loan interest, if you financed the purchase of your truck and trailer
- Repairs and maintenance
While other business-use vehicles can use a standard mileage method for deducting vehicle expenses, this option isn't available to semitruck drivers.
What expenses aren't deductible?
There are a few common costs of driving a truck that aren't deductible, including:
- Clothing that's appropriate for everyday wear
- Commuting costs between your home and business headquarters
- Home phone line
- Reimbursed expenses
- Travel expenses and meals on a personal trip
All in all, the main factor in whether an expense is deductible or not is whether it's ordinary and necessary for business and whether you have a record of the expense. Record-keeping is extremely important, so be sure to keep copies of receipts and other paperwork to back up the expenses you claim on your tax return.
Don’t worry about knowing which tax forms to fill out when you are self-employed, TurboTax Self-Employed will ask you simple questions about your life and help you fill out all the right forms. We’ll help you uncover industry-specific deductions you qualify for so you can get every dollar you deserve.