Maximise Your Business Travel Tax Deduction

With both fuel and vehicle ownership costs at historic highs, it is more crucial than ever for taxpayers to keep accurate, up-to-date and securely stored logs of all business travel as well as proof of related travel costs. This is because expenses related to business travel can be deducted from taxable income – but only if a logbook that complies with SARS requirements is kept current for each vehicle and stored as per the regulations.      

There are also several other tax implications relating to travel expenses, travel allowances and reimbursements for business travel. To maximise the tax benefits related to business travel for both a business and its employees, speak to your accountant to fully understand the tax implications for all concerned. 

“Without a logbook, you will not be able to claim a travel deduction.”

Even while recovering from the economic impact of COVID and facing the challenges of power blackouts, businesses and their employees are also contending with the costs of travel that have reached historic highs. Thankfully, expenses related to business travel can be deducted from taxable income – reducing the tax liability for taxpayers, including businesses, employees, commission-earners and independent contractors. All these taxpayers should prioritise maximising the available tax deductions by ensuring they can claim for every actual business travel-related expense. 

This is increasingly important given the rapidly rising costs of travel, fuel and vehicle ownership. Fuel prices have more than doubled over the last five years and continue to set new records. In addition, Wesbank recently reported that the monthly cost of vehicle ownership for an average entry-level vehicle is 33% higher than five years ago and has increased 32% between November 2021 and November 2022.

To claim any business travel expenses, it is compulsory to keep an accurate and up-to-date SARS-compliant logbook for each vehicle. In addition, there are other tax implications related to travel expenses, travel allowances and travel reimbursements, some of which are briefly highlighted below.  

Claiming the business travel deduction – fast facts 

  • Businesses can claim business travel expenses incurred in the production of income.
  • Employees who receive a travel allowance can claim a deduction for the use of their private vehicles for business purposes. 
  • Employees may also be entitled to claim a reduction on the fringe benefit in respect of business kilometres travelled in a company car.
  • To claim any travel deduction, an accurate, up-to-date logbook detailing all business kilometres travelled is required. SARS accepts electronic logbooks.  
  • There is no deduction allowed for private travel, which is any travel not for business purposes, such as travelling between home and work. 
  • In addition to a logbook, taxpayers who want to claim actual travel expenses should keep accurate records and proof of all travel expenses, such as fuel and maintenance, incurred during the year.
  • A separate logbook and records must be kept for each vehicle used for business purposes.
  • SARS reserves the right to query and audit the content or information recorded in any logbook by the taxpayer.
  • Logbooks and other records must be kept for at least five years as taxpayers may be required to submit them to SARS for verification of travel claims. 

How to claim a business travel tax deduction

  1. Record the vehicle’s odometer reading on the first day of a tax year (1 March for individuals and also for companies). 
  1. Maintain the logbook all year – SARS requires the following minimum information for every single business trip: date of travel; kilometres travelled; and travel details including where the trip started, the destination and the reason for the trip. It is not necessary to record details of private travel. 
  1. Keep records of all related travel expenses such as fuel, oil, repairs and maintenance, car licence, insurance, vehicle tracking costs, wear-and-tear, and finance charges or lease costs to claim the actual travel costs incurred.
  1. Record your motor vehicle’s closing odometer reading on the last day of the applicable tax year (end of February for individuals and also for many companies). The difference between the opening odometer reading and the closing odometer reading equals the total kilometres (business and private) travelled for the full year.
  1. Calculate the total business kilometres for the year using the detailed logbook.
  1. The travel deduction can then be calculated in one of two ways: 
  • Use the cost scale table supplied and updated annually by SARS, if you have not kept an accurate record of all travel expenses – the table simply provides a rate per kilometre based on the value of the vehicle, or
  • Calculate the claim based on actual costs incurred, determined by the accurate records and proof of all business travel expenses during the year, in addition to the logbook.  

Tax implications to beware of

  • If an employee receives a travel allowance as part of his/her remuneration, 80% of the travel allowance must be included when calculating PAYE. This percentage is reduced to 20%, where the employer is satisfied that at least 80% of the motor vehicle use during the tax year will be for business purposes. 
  • However, if there is any underpayment of PAYE on the travel allowance due to incomplete or incorrect information, the employer is liable for any shortfall, so obtain professional advice before providing travel allowances and ensure employees with travel allowances keep detailed logbooks. 
  • Fuel costs can only be claimed if the employee pays the full cost of fuel used in the vehicle, and similarly, maintenance costs can only be claimed if the employee carries the full cost of maintaining the vehicle, for example, if the vehicle is covered by a maintenance plan.
  • Where a travel allowance or advance is based on the actual distance travelled by the employee for business purposes (reimbursive travel allowance), it is non-taxable (i.e. no  employee’s tax must be deducted) provided that two criteria are met: the rate per kilometre is not higher than the rate published by SARS, and no other compensation in the form of an allowance or reimbursement (except parking or toll fees) is received in respect of the vehicle.
  • If the two criteria mentioned above are NOT met, the reimbursive travel allowance is taxable and employees’ tax must be deducted from any amount that exceeds the prescribed rate per kilometre.

To maximise the tax deductions related to business travel, make sure that an accurate and up-to-date SARS-compliant logbook is kept current for each vehicle and each employee with a travel allowance, and that you consult with your accountant to understand the many tax implications for all concerned before making decisions regarding business travel. 

© DotNews. The information herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your prefessional advisor for specific and detailed advice.

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