Logbook Method: How to Claim Car Expenses From the ATO

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Home » Logbook Method: How to Claim Car Expenses From the ATO

The easiest and most ‘profitable’ way to claim car expenses from the ATO is by using the logbook method.

To do this you can either slog through the effort of a spreadsheet or paper logbook. Tedious!

Or use GOFAR (best option) to record the kilometres travelled, add up your car expenses, work out your claim amount, and submit your logbook records to the ATO at tax time.

Don’t miss out on YOUR eligible deductions. Use an automated logbook app instead!

Option 1: Automate your Logbook With GOFAR

Claiming car expenses is a drag for some people, while for others it’s a next-to-impossible feat. This is why so many Australians use a digital logbook app like GOFAR.

An electronic logbook app enables you to have your ATO-compliant documentation ready for hand-over at tax time, automatically.

Use an app like GOFAR to record your work-related trips and take care of all the legwork.


Great app. Super handy to use, keeping track could not be any easier. Best investment I’ve made. No more paperwork and online information for end-of-tax year reports. Nathan Whalley, Verified Customer, Mar 2021

Option 2: Manually Calculate Your Car Expenses

This method is the most time-consuming and usually inaccurate option. It’s risky.

Here are the main pros and cons to keep in mind with this mileage logging choice.

You’ll need to do 3 things to accurately calculate your deductions using the logbook method:

  1. Maintain a logbook for 12 consecutive weeks as it helps establish the number of kilometres travelled
  2. Calculate your business use percentage
  3. Multiply the total expenses by the business use percentage

Here’s a quick example to illustrate how it works.

Imagine you’ve covered a total of 10,000 kilometres during your 12-week logbook period. Of this, 4,800 kilometres were driven for work-related purposes. Here’s how you’d do your number crunch:

4,800 ÷ 10,000 × 100 = 48%

This calculation gives you the exact percentage of your work-related drives. You’re allowed to claim 48% of all your car expenses for the fiscal year.

To get to your final deduction amount, there’s one more operation to carry out. Multiply your total expenses by your business-use percentage. Let’s say your total car expenses amount to $12,000. Here’s how you go about the calculation:

$12,000 × 48% = $5,760

Do it the usual way or use the ATO Work-related car expenses calculator for fast results.

There are two things you need to remember about the logbook method:

  1. You can claim a deduction only if you use your own car for business purposes
  2. You can only claim the expenses you incurred during your business drives

Below is a table including the types of expenses you may incur, listing whether they are eligible for deduction, and the requirements for deductibility.

Type of Expense Is It Tax Deductible? Conditions That Must Be Met for Deductibility Additional Notes
Fuel and oil Yes Must be related to work-related or business travel You must keep a receipt record and maintain a logbook
Repairs and maintenance Yes Must be incurred while the vehicle is being used for work-related purposes You cannot claim repairs due to negligence
Interest on loan Yes Sole traders and partnerships can claim a portion of the interest if the car is used for business purposes Individuals can’t claim deductions on a loan interest
Depreciation Yes You can only claim depreciation over the business portion of the car’s cost There’s a limit on the cost you can use to calculate depreciation
Insurance and registration Yes The deductible portion is established through the business use percentage You must maintain an accurate logbook to calculate your business use percentage

To recap, you must maintain a logbook to calculate the business-use percentage that you’ll use to arrive at your claim amount.

How to Calculate My Deductions infographic

Now let’s get into how you can keep a valid logbook to simplify claiming deductions from the ATO.

How to Keep a Valid Vehicle Logbook

Now that you’re clear on how to calculate your car deductions, let’s move on to the trickier part: recording your trip details in a logbook.

In addition to your car details and the business-use percentage, your logbook must include the following records:

  • Time when the logbook period starts and ends
  • Odometer readings at the beginning and end of the 12-week period
  • Total kilometres travelled during the logbook timeframe
  • Number of kilometres travelled for each journey
  • Odometer readings at the beginning and end of the income years that the logbook is valid for

 Information You Should Record infographic

Accurate records are your way to a lucrative tax deduction as well as your way out of trouble with the ATO. Use the table below to figure out what records you should keep during the logbook and non-­log book year.

logbook requirements chart

Highlight: Do you use a car owned by someone else in your family? Then you must keep records that indicate your agreement with the owner or lessee for the use of the car. In this way, you’ll easily be able to calculate and claim the car’s expenses as though it is your vehicle.

Steer Clear of ATO Penalties

You don’t have to be 100% comfortable when claiming your car expenses. Follow the ground rules and you’ll be able to avoid over-claiming your taxes.

Remember, you need to substantiate your business trips. The ATO is watching you and they won’t shy away from penalising you for poor record-keeping.

“While some people do make legitimate mistakes, we are concerned that many people are deliberately making dodgy claims in order to get a bigger refund. We see taxpayers claiming for things like private trips, trips they didn’t make and car expenses their employer paid for or reimbursed them for.” — ato.gov.au

Follow these three golden tax return rules and you have nothing to worry about:

  1. Make sure you don’t claim trips between home and work (unless you’re carrying bulky equipment).
  2. Never claim trips that have already been reimbursed by your employer.
  3. Keep your records straight so you always have proof of your business mileage.

Your Choice: Slow Manual Option or GOFAR

Now that you know everything about claiming vehicle expenses using the logbook method, put this knowledge to good use. You’ll be happy you did once you get that large tax refund.

The GOFAR fuel logbook app will help you get there. By leveraging the OBD2 scanner technology, we bring you one of the most reliable products on the market.


Works with the GOFAR OBD reader and the efficiency ray that gives visual feedback on the efficiency of your driving style. Good for those who want to save on fuel, identify vehicle faults, and never miss service intervals. Also records business vs private trips for tax etc, and you can download the data. Service is also excellent. Honda VTEC, Verified Customer, Oct 2020

It’ll help you stay sane during the logbook period and give you other long-term benefits. You can:

  • Log, calculate, and export work-related expenses with a swipe on your phone.
  • Save money on fuel
  • Save money on car servicing

Now, check out how others boost their tax return with GOFAR.

Track Work Mileage With GOFAR

  • Log, calculate and export business expenses at the press of a button
  • No cancellation fees
  • Available on iOS and Android

Get GOFAR now

GOFAR mileage tracker app on a white smartphone screen
Danny Adams sitting in a chair with a laptop

Danny Adams

Co-founder of GOFAR and with a Computer Science background from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Aerospace, Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering (Honours), UNSW. I want to transform data from cars into useful services so -> drivers save time & money -> emissions fall -> Australian roads are safer. So we built an ATO-compliant logbook app called GOFAR. I write to help you understand how to use GOFAR to maximise business travel. Reach out via support@gofar.co.

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This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice from GOFAR. We recommend consulting with an independent legal, taxation, or financial expert to ensure the information is applicable to your specific situation. Please note that relevant regulations and laws may evolve over time.
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