Motor vehicle records
The best evidence to support the use of a vehicle is an accurate logbook of business travel maintained for the entire year, showing for each business trip, the destination, the reason for the trip and the distance covered.
You can deduct motor vehicle expenses only when they are reasonable and you have receipts to support them. To get the full benefit of your claim for each vehicle, keep a record of the total kilometres you drive and the kilometres you drive to earn business income.
For each business trip, keep a log listing the following:
- number of kilometres you drive
Record the odometer reading of each vehicle at the start and end of the fiscal period.
If you change motor vehicles during the fiscal period, record the dates of the changes and the odometer reading when you buy, sell, or trade the vehicle.
You can choose to maintain a full logbook for one complete year to establish a base year's business use of a vehicle.
After one complete year of keeping a logbook to establish the base year, you can use a three-month sample logbook to foresee business use for the entire year, as long as the usage is within the same range (within 10%) of the results of the base year. Businesses will have to show that the use of the vehicle in the base year remains representative of its normal use.
The business use of the vehicle in the following year will be calculated by multiplying the business use as determined in the base year by the ratio of the sample period and base year period. The formula for this calculation is as follows:
(Sample year period % ÷ Base year period %) × Base year annual % = Calculated annual business use
Where the calculated annual business use in a later year goes up or down by more than 10%, the base year is not an appropriate indicator of annual usage in that later year. In this case, the sample period logbook would only be reliable for the three-month period it had been maintained. For the remainder of the year, the business use of the vehicle would need to be determined based on an actual record of travel or alternative records, as discussed above. In these circumstances, the taxpayer should consider establishing a new base year by maintaining a logbook for a new 12-month period.
An individual has completed a logbook for a full 12-month period, which showed a business use percentage in each quarter of 52/46/39/67 and an annual business use of the vehicle as 49%. In a subsequent year, a logbook was maintained for a three-month sample period during April, May and June, which showed the business use as 51%. In the base year, the percentage of business use of the vehicle for the months April, May and June was 46%. The business use of the vehicle would be calculated as follows:
(51% ÷ 46%) × 49% = 54%
In this case, the CRA would accept, in the absence of contradictory evidence, the calculated annual business use of the vehicle for the subsequent year as 54%. (That is, the calculated annual business use is within 10% of the annual business use in the base year - it is not lower than 39% or higher than 59%.)
Even though records and supporting documents are only required to be kept for a period of six years from the end of the tax year to which they relate, the logbook for the full 12-month period must be kept for a period of six years from the end of the tax year for which it is last used to establish business use.
If you use more than one motor vehicle for your business, keep a separate record for each vehicle that shows the total and business kilometres you drive, and the cost to run and maintain each vehicle. Calculate each vehicle's expenses separately.
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