What Is a Vehicle Logbook? Every Tradie’s Question Answered

A vehicle logbook is a method for recording your business mileage for tax return purposes.

It’s how you provide proof of your car expenses to the ATO so you can claim a portion of those expenses at tax time.

Nifty, isn’t it?

As a tradie, you’re spending your days on wheels – so you might as well use this to your advantage.

Among other tax deductions for tradies, you can claim car expenses such as tolls, fuel, and parking.

Keeping a logbook helps you separate private and business mileage so the ATO knows which expenses to reimburse.

It may be outside your remit but trust us – learning how to keep accurate tax records is worth your while. Why spread your budget thin, when you can get money back on your taxes (we’re talking thousands here) and put it to good use?

Want to learn how to keep a vehicle logbook? We’ll break down this topic for you, so it’s easy to digest. Prepare to have some questions answered.

How to Keep a Vehicle Logbook: A Simple Rundown

Tradies who make the most of their tax knowledge know these two things very well. They know a vehicle logbook can help them:

  1. Claim a deduction for work-related car expenses. Self-employed tradies use a logbook to track their mileage and use it to file their tax return.
  2. Minimise their fringe benefit tax (FBT) expenses. Tradies who operate their own contracting firms use a logbook to record the mileage of their employees so they can reimburse FBTs.

In other words, they use a vehicle logbook to minimise their FBT expenses and maximise their car expenses deductions. Very smart.

But you may be wondering:

What Vehicle Expenses Can I Claim as a Tradie?

You can claim work-related vehicle expenses if you’re:

  • a sole trader
  • an employee
  • if you’re running your own company

You’re eligible for a tax return both if you’re driving your own car (leased or bought) or a company-owned car.

But take note: you can’t file for a tax return if you’ve already been reimbursed for car expenses by your employee.

Claim tax return in Australia

Meet the criteria above and you’ll receive a tax return for the following car expenses:

⁃ fuel and oil
⁃ repairs and servicing
⁃ insurance and registration
⁃ lease payments and interest on your car loan
⁃ depreciation

There are some positive exceptions to some of these rules, though. Now, tradies are going to love this!

Home renovation specialists, painters, and removalists – keep reading!

Am I Eligible to Claim Car Expenses If I Use My Car to Transport Bulky Tools for Work?

The short and sweet answer is yes. And you can even claim your car costs for trips between home and work (yes, you heard us right).

This comes with a caveat though. The refund is possible only if you’re carrying bulky tools or equipment for work. An extension ladder, a cement mixer, a wheelbarrow all qualify.

Yet, to claim a tax return, you need to meet the following conditions:

  • the equipment must be necessary for your work
  • your employer demands you transport the equipment
  • the equipment is bulky (at least 20 kg) and/or difficult to transport
  • the equipment can’t be stored at the work location

Now, tradespeople will typically carry their cumbersome tools and equipment in a pickup or a minivan.

So, bear in mind that it’s mandatory to use the logbook method (NOT the cents per kilometre method) for vehicles:

  • Exceeding the carrying capacity of one tonne or more, such as a panel van or a ute.
  • Designed to carry nine passengers or more, such as a minivan.

How Much Can I Claim on Business Car Expenses?

Although it can look scary, the vehicle log book method is only some basic number crunching. Simply divide your business kilometres for the year by the total kilometres travelled.

It may be self-evident, but the higher your business-use percentage, the greater the deductions you’ll be able to claim.

This is why you want to get your records right.

Now, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to calculate the amount you can claim on your business mileage. You need to:

Calculate amount claim

Record Keeping: What Information Should I Track in My Car Logbook?

Now, here’s the worst part. This is why most tradies hate keeping a logbook and shout from the rooftops how soul-crushing this chore can be.

Some tradies opt for the cents per kilometre method so they can track their car expenses without receipts. However, this is a bad idea if you’re covering more than 5,000km a year. Why? Because the cents per kilometre method will yield you a lower deduction than the logbook method.

For example:

Let’s say your total annual car expenses are $8,000 and your business percentage is 60%. This means using a logbook method will leave you with $4,800 back in your pocket.

And odds are you’ll be hitting higher annual figures as a tradie.

Now, care to find out how to close this deal in real life? Keep a valid logbook and provide the ATO with convincing proof of your car expenses.

Record vehicle logbook

Where Can I Get Free Car Log Book Templates?

Well, today is your lucky day. Yes, even if a customer made an out of place remark, or you were short of essential supplies, or you name it, today can still be the start of something great.

You can start getting your money back from taxes today!

Brace yourself for some action. We’ve created a handy log book template that drivers can use for free.

Here’s our logbook sample so you can get the gist of how the logbook process looks like.

vehicle logbook template in landscape form
Download our FREE Vehicle Logbook Template

Alternatively, you can purchase a pre-printed vehicle log book from a local stationery supplier. Or skip the hassle and get a logbook app to do the grunt work for you.

Write Off Your Work-Related Car Expenses the Easy Way: Get a Car Logbook App

The logbook method is a lucrative way to claim your tax deductions, but it requires some diligence. You need to jot down the details of each drive you make.

This is neither fun nor sustainable. The life of a typical tradesman includes plenty of hard work and plenty of driving around. Chances that you’ll forget to log your business mileage are high!

Yet, there’s a simple solution for time-poor tradies. Electronic logbook apps are coming to your rescue. Use them to get your car expense deductions and save valuable time!

GOFAR is an all-encompassing solution to your tax return troubles. It stands a cut above the rest of the apps because it tracks your mileage without fault.

Not only will it help you save hours on logging your mileage, but it will also make sure you:

  • Log, calculate, and export business expenses at the press of a button.
  • Never miss a trip, thanks to its leave-in device and automatic trip logging.
  • Do your logbook both if you’re an iOS or Android user.

Brighten your financial prospects. Calculate exactly how much you can claim on business car expenses and start getting your money back on taxes with GOFAR!

Track Work Mileage With GOFAR

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

Get GOFAR now

GOFAR mileage tracker app on a white smartphone screen
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