5 Mileage Tracking Apps for the Modern Attorney
Here we are in January, the month for making new plans, promises and approaching our lives and businesses with renewed excitement knowing that this year anything is possible. At the same time, we start the process of tying up those loose ends from the prior year. This is about the time clients start showing up in my office to review their books, talk about their plans for the new year and start the process of filing their tax return. They come in with copies of their accounting files, printed financial statements and tattered shoeboxes full of receipts. This is how it should be, as small business owners we know we need to keep track of those important business receipts, financial documents, and bank statement but an area where we tend to fall short is recording mileage.
Recording mileage is a simple process; document where you went, when, for what purpose and how many miles you drove to get there. Unfortunately, most business owners don’t remember to record this information. The main reason is a lack of time coupled with the randomness and amount of travel for the average business owner. Thus, when asked for mileage at year end they either scramble to reconstruct their travel for the previous year by looking through their calendar or give a general estimation that either over or under estimates the number of miles driven. This creates a bad situation because if the owner over estimates the mileage and gets selected for audit, then they will have issues substantiating the mileage reported. On the other hand, if underestimated, the business owner does not receive the maximum tax deduction allowed. Of course, the most desirable number is the correct one that the owner can substantiate.
Technology does have a possible answer. Most business owners would never leave home without their cell phone but that cell phone can be used for more than just receiving calls and answering texts. There are many articles on the web about valuable business apps every business owner should download. In my opinion, one of those apps should be a mileage tracking app. There are many mileage recording applications available to help keep track of those important business trips.
Here are 5 mileage tracking apps for iOS and Android to help record all those money saving trips in 2017.
- Mileage Expense Log (iOS)– An app that helps people easily keep track of mileage and related expenses such as tolls and fairs. While the app can generate reports the app can also export data to HTML or CVS formats. Unlike other mileage apps that require a small monthly subscription Mileage Expense Log only has a one-time upfront payment of $3.99.
- TripLog (Android, iOS)– A mileage tracking app with a few interesting features. First, it has an auto track feature so that any time the phone is connected to Bluetooth or power and is traveling more than 5 miles per hour TripLog automatically starts to record the trip. This way the user does not have to worry about remembering to start or stop the application because the tracking function is always on in the background. Second, the user can also enter other travel related expenses like tolls, gas and oil changes allowing the software to calculate fuel economy. Finally, TripLog also allows the user to take pictures of those important receipts and stores all the information in the cloud from which the user can run reports for themselves or employees. There is a free version with limited functionality with tiered plans offering added benefits starting at $1.50 per month.
- MileIQ (Android, iOS)– Like TripLog, MileIQ tracks and records trips automatically and then asks whether the trip was a business or personal by simply allowing the user to swipe left for personal and right for business trips. As a result, some have described the application as Tinder for mileage. Now constantly being asked whether your trip was business or personal every time you exit the car can get old so the developers created a feature that allows the user to set business hours. Any trips take during non-business hours are assumed to be personal, although the user can easily reclassify a trip if needed. MileIQ offers a free version that is limited to 40 trips per month but for those that regularly drive more than 40 times in a month MileIQ does offer a paid monthly subscription at $5.99 a month.
- Stride Drive (Android, iOS)– The result of a side project by Stride Health. The app records mileage and other expense related to trips like tolls, parking, and meals. Originally built for Uber drivers, the app also tracks passenger goodies, car washes, and music / other paid apps. While it lacks some of the more advanced features the app is free with no in-app purchases.
- QuickBooks Self-Employed (Android, iOS)– has a mileage tracking feature as part of your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription package. It automatically tracks mileage and uses a swipe method like MileIQ and allows the user to track other trip-related expenses and even does receipt capture. At year end the system will automatically try to determine whether the user is better off taking the mileage deduction or the car expense deduction on their tax return.
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While these apps are predominately used by business owners these apps can also be used by employees to substantiate mileage for expense report submittal purposes. But it does not stop there, for people who do a lot of charitable work or people who make a lot of trips to and from the hospital/doctor’s office these apps can be used to track mileage drive.
The mileage rates for 2017 are:
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Of course, there is always the old-school paper and pencil method which does not require a cell phone or the use of a data plan or even a well-charged battery. Best of all it is practically free, you just have to remember to record trips.
Which one is right for you? Experiment with different apps and create a better habit that saves you money in 2017.