Tax deadline means it’s time to complain about journalists’ mileage reimbursements

Those of you who are deadline-oriented will be doing your taxes this weekend, which means you’ll be reminded of how much your employer does or doesn’t reimburse you for all that driving you do for work. Are you fortunate enough to be reimbursed at the IRS rate of 51 to 55.5 cents a mile? Or do you just get a quarter or so, which means this weekend you’ll be digging around to find mileage logs so you can deduct the remainder on your tax return? (It also probably means you’re quietly resentful when you fill up at $4 a gallon during a road trip.) Post a comment here, tweet to #journotax or post to our Facebook page with your employer, mileage rate and how many miles you drive annually for work. I’ve put together a sampling:

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  • Brian O’Connor

    From Brian O’Connor, personal finance editor, Detroit News: Rather than “digging around to find mileage logs” just try this: Add up all your mileage payments from your employer for 2011. Divide by the reimbursement rate, and that’s how many miles you drove (or at least how many you billed your publisher). Now claim those miles, times the difference between what your publisher paid and what the IRS allows, and there’s the amount to claim for your tax deduction.

    So, if you were paid $600 last year, and your publisher reimburses you at 30 cents per mile, you drove 2,000 miles (600 / .30 = 2000). Now you can claim the 25.5-cents per mile difference from the IRS, for a total deduction of $510 (.255 * 2000). 

    Save the reimbursement records if you need to support the deduction later, as in an audit. 

    Also, if your unreimbursed business expenses don’t total 2% of your adjusted gross income, no deduction. If they do, the IRS only counts the portion above 2%.