Demystifying Mileage Deductions: Understanding Business, Commute, and Personal Trips According to IRS Guidelines

Demystifying Mileage Deductions: Understanding Business, Commute, and Personal Trips According to IRS Guidelines
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Understanding the classification of your trips—whether they fall into the categories of business, commute, or personal—is crucial when it comes to claiming mileage deductions as a self-employed individual. By adhering to IRS guidelines, you can ensure accurate deductions and maximize your tax benefits. Let's dive into the definitions and tax deductibility of each type of trip.

Business Trips: According to the IRS, a business trip is defined as travel primarily related to your trade, business, or profession. These trips involve travel to meet clients, attend business-related meetings or conferences, or perform work-related tasks away from your regular place of business. Examples of business trips may include visiting a client's location, traveling to a job site, or meeting with suppliers or vendors. The mileage incurred during these trips is tax-deductible as a business expense.

Commute Trips: Commute trips, also known as "personal commuting," refer to the regular transportation between your home and your regular place of business. This includes commuting to and from your office, shop, or other fixed location where you conduct your business. Unfortunately, the mileage for commute trips is not tax-deductible as it is considered a personal expense.

Personal Trips: Personal trips are journeys taken for non-business purposes, such as running personal errands, going grocery shopping, or attending social events unrelated to your business. These trips are not tax-deductible, as they do not directly contribute to your business activities.

To calculate your mileage deductions accurately, it is important to keep detailed records and differentiate between business, commute, and personal trips.

Psngr helps you maintain a mileage log that clearly states the purpose of each trip, along with the total mileage, which is essential for supporting your deductions in case of an audit.

To gain a deeper understanding of the IRS guidelines and their specific requirements, we recommend referring to IRS Publication 463 "Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses." This publication provides comprehensive information on mileage deductions, including specific examples and scenarios to help you navigate the complexities of classifying your trips.

Mixed business/personal/commute trips

When calculating your mileage deductions, you can only consider the mileage for the business portion of a mixed business/personal/commute trip. Here are a couple examples:

  1. Drive from home to the store to purchase materials for my business, then continue from there to my office.

For this trip, we need to differentiate between the two segments:

  • Home to the store: This portion of the trip is primarily considered a business trip since it involves purchasing materials for your business. The mileage incurred during this leg of the trip would generally be tax-deductible as a business expense.
  • Store to the office: Once you have purchased the materials and proceed from the store to your office, this portion of the trip would be classified as a commute. Commute trips are typically considered personal in nature and are not tax-deductible.

2.  Drive back from my office, pick up my child from school, drop my child off at home, then drive to a business dinner with a client, then return home.

Let's break down this trip into its components:

  • Drive back from your office: This portion of the trip is considered a commute since you are traveling from your office to another location and for non-business purpose. Commute trips are typically considered personal and are not tax-deductible.
  • Pick up your child from school and drop them off at home: This leg of the trip is considered personal since it involves personal responsibilities and transporting your child. Personal trips are not tax-deductible.
  • Drive from home to your business dinner, and return home: this entire return trip can be considered a business trip. Since the purpose of the trip was to attend a business meeting directly related to your business activities, the mileage incurred during this entire journey may be classified as a business trip.


It's important to accurately differentiate between personal, commute, and business trips to determine the tax-deductible mileage. When uncertain, consult with a tax professional or refer to IRS guidelines for further clarification and use Psngr app to ensure accurate record-keeping for your business-related travel deductions.