10 tax deductions for owner-operator truck drivers
July 26, 2023
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Trucking business owners know the importance of keeping their expenses under control. From fuel and maintenance to insurance and licensing fees, the costs can add up quickly. However, there's some good news: many of these expenses are tax deductible.
Tax deductions are a powerful tool to reduce your business’ tax burden and keep more of your profits in your pocket. When it comes time to file your taxes, take advantage of these 10 potential tax deductions for owner-operator truck drivers.
Below are potential opportunities to save on your business costs. Tax regulations change frequently, and each business owner’s situation may be different. It is important to consult with a tax or legal professional to ensure you are maximizing your opportunities and staying in compliance with federal and state regulations.
Trucking owner-operator tax deductions list
1. Travel costs.
There are certain travel expenses that can be deducted on your tax return, which can help lower your overall tax liability. They can include:
Since the IRS considers a semi-truck to be a qualified non-personal use vehicle, you cannot take a tax write-off for mileage. The IRS already deducts deadhead miles and time off.
Owner-operators can claim a per diem deduction for meals and other incidental expenses while they’re away from their home longer than a normal workday.
As of 2023, the per diem rate for owner-operators in the U.S. is $69 per day for every day they’re away from home. You can deduct 80% of that rate, or $55.20 per day.
Be sure to keep accurate records of your:
- Travel dates.
- The amount you spent on meals.
Per diem rates and regulations change annually, so it’s important to stay up to date on the latest guidelines.
Maintaining your truck is a crucial part of running your business, which means maintenance costs can be deducted as a business expense. Some examples of what can be deducted include:
- Oil changes.
- Tire replacements.
You can deduct the full cost of maintenance expenses in the year they are incurred or depreciate them over several years, depending on what type of maintenance is being done.
Check with a tax professional to see what your options are and be sure to keep detailed records of all maintenance expenses to support your deduction.
4. Equipment and payments.
If you lease your semi-truck, you can usually deduct your truck lease payment as a business expense.
If you own your semi-truck, you can take a tax write-off for the depreciation of your vehicle. You can also deduct interest paid on loans for your truck and trailer.
Any insurance related to your business can be deducted as a business expense. That can include:
- Bobtail insurance.
- Physical damage insurance.
- Cargo liability insurance.
If you pay for your own health insurance coverage, you can deduct the premium on an IRS Schedule 1 1040 Form.
6. Business fees.
You can also deduct any expenses that are directly related to your trucking business. This includes a variety of costs that you incur while operating your business, such as:
- Office supplies, such as paper, postage and cleaning products.
- Trucking-related subscriptions.
- Association dues.
- Accounting services.
- Permits and license fees.
7. Truck supplies.
You're entitled to deduct any necessary tools or equipment you use to run your business. This includes truck supplies, like:
- Tire chains.
- Ice scrappers.
- Snow brushes.
- Wire cutters.
- Bungee cords.
8. Medical expenses.
Regular medical exams, such as DOT physicals, are a requirement for truck drivers to maintain their commercial driver’s license (CDL). As an owner-operator, you can deduct out-of-pocket costs for any required work-related medical exam.
Medical exams, treatments or prescriptions that are not work-related cannot be deducted as a business expense.
If you use technology exclusively for your business, it's considered a deductible expense. This can include things like your:
- Electronic Logging Device (ELD).
- CB Radio.
- Cell phone.
If the technology is used for both personal and business purposes, only the portion used for your business can be deducted.
10. Safety gear.
Another owner-operator tax write-off is safety gear. This is a necessary and ordinary part of your everyday operations, so it can be deducted as a business expense. Some examples include:
- Steel-toed boots.
- Reflective vests.
- Safety glasses.
To qualify for the deduction, the safety gear must be used for work-related purposes, such as loading and unloading freight or driving your truck.