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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Amey

Do I need a logbook to claim travel?

Getting the most out of your tax return
Do I need a logbook?

When it comes to claiming vehicle expenses on your Australian tax return, meticulous record-keeping is essential. Whether you're self-employed, a sole trader, or an employee required to use your vehicle for work purposes, understanding the intricacies of vehicle expense deductions can lead to significant tax savings.

Let us explain further why maintaining a logbook is important, how it establishes your business usage percentage, and the importance of keeping records of all of your expenses.

Do I need a Logbook?

A logbook is a detailed record of your vehicle usage, specifically documenting the kilometers traveled for business purposes. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) requires taxpayers to keep a logbook for a continuous period of at least 12 weeks to determine the business use percentage of their vehicle.

How to calculate the business Usage Percentage:

During the 12-week period recorded in your logbook, you'll need to note every journey made in your vehicle, specifying the purpose of each trip (e.g., client meetings, deliveries, travel between work sites). At the end of the 12 weeks, you'll calculate the percentage of your total kilometers driven that were for business purposes. This percentage will then be used to determine the portion of your vehicle expenses that are tax-deductible. Speak with your tax agent or accountant as we can help you understand how this is calculated, and why it matters.

Handy Hint : The reason "business" will not substantiate. The ATO requires specifics on why it was a business trip.

How Logbook Percentage Relates to Expenses:

Claiming a tax deduction for travel and motor vehicles
How to claim a deduction for your work travel

Once you've determined your business use percentage using the logbook method, you can apply this percentage to all of your vehicle expenses for the financial year. This includes fuel, maintenance and repairs, insurance, registration, and depreciation. For example, if your logbook shows that 60% of your total kilometers were for business use, you can claim 60% of your vehicle expenses as a tax deduction. This is also why we always ask you to keep records of your expenses. Merely having the percentage does not give way to making the deduction claim.

Top Tip : You need a new logbook if your circumstances change or your vehicle changes

Importance of Keeping Records of All Expenses:

In addition to maintaining a logbook, it's imperative that you keep detailed records of all expenses related to your vehicle. This is particularly important if you're claiming actual expenses rather than using the cents-per-kilometer method. (this will be explained a little later on)

Keep receipts and invoices for fuel, repairs, maintenance, insurance premiums, registration fees, and any other expenses incurred for your vehicle. These records will be used to substantiate your deductions and provide evidence in case of an audit by the ATO. Without a list of the expenses, the business usage percentage is useless in establishing the amount of the deduction.

What is the Cents-Per-Kilometer Method and how does it differ?

It's important to note that there are two main methods for claiming vehicle expenses in Australia: the logbook method and the cents-per-kilometer method. While the cents-per-kilometer method provides a flat rate deduction based on the number of kilometers traveled for business purposes, the logbook method offers a more accurate reflection of your actual expenses based on your business use percentage. Keeping detailed records of all expenses allows you to choose the method that best suits your situation and maximize your tax deductions accordingly.

How does it allow you to choose?

There are a few limitations and specifics when determining the method of deduction. If you are using the cents per kilometer method, you are only able to claim up to 5,000km's per vehicle per year. This means that if you travelled more than 5,000 km's for business purposes, you may be missing out on some of your deduction.

If you don't have a logbook though, you are also not able to use the logbook method. (Which could mean that you are limited to cents per km method, (5,000km's only)

Likewise, if you have a logbook, but no receipts of your expenses, then you still can't claim on the logbook method.

Furthermore, you cannot claim the cents per km method on any vehicle other than a car. So a commercial vehicle can only use the logbook method.....

In conclusion, maintaining a logbook and keeping records of all vehicle expenses are essential steps in maximizing your tax deductions for vehicle usage in Australia. By accurately documenting your business-related kilometers and expenses, you can ensure compliance with ATO requirements and claim the deductions you're entitled to, ultimately reducing your taxable income and saving money come tax time. Talk with your Tax agent or Accountant to better understand your eligibility and opportunities.

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This articles intention is to inform rather than advise and is based on legislation at the time. Each Taxpayer’s circumstances vary so we strongly recommend that you discuss this information with your Tax Agent, Accountant or Bas Agent before implementation. If you take, or do not take action as a result of reading this article, we accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred. This is general advice only.


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