Standard mileage rates decrease from 2019 to 2020

By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D.

The optional standard mileage rates for business use of a vehicle will decrease slightly in 2020 after increasing significantly in 2019, the IRS announced on Dec. 31, 2019 (Notice 2020-05). For business use of a car, van, pickup truck, or panel truck, the rate for 2020 will be 57.5 cents per mile in 2020, down from 58 cents per mile last year after increasing from 54.5 cents per mile in 2018. Taxpayers can use the optional standard mileage rates to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile.

Because the law known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), P.L. 115-97, suspended the miscellaneous itemized deduction under Sec. 67 for unreimbursed employee business expenses from 2018 to 2025, the notice explains that the standard mileage rate cannot be used to claim a deduction for those expenses during that period.

However, self-employed taxpayers can deduct automobile expenses if they qualify as ordinary and necessary business expenses. And an exception to the disallowance of a deduction for unreimbursed employee business expenses applies to members of a reserve component of the U.S. armed forces, state or local government officials paid on a fee basis, and certain performing artists. They are permitted to deduct mileage expenses on line 11 of Schedule 1 of Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, (an above-the-line deduction) and may continue to use the 57.5 cents-per-mile business standard mileage rate.

The standard mileage rate also can be used under Rev. Proc. 2019-46 as the maximum amount an employer can reimburse an employee for operating an automobile for business purposes without substantiating the actual expense incurred.

Under Notice 2020-05, driving for medical care or for certain limited moving expense purposes for members of the armed forces may be deducted at 17 cents per mile, which is 3 cents lower than for 2019.

The TCJA repealed the moving expense deduction for individual taxpayers from 2018 to 2025, except for U.S. armed forces members on active duty who move pursuant to a military order and incident to a permanent change of station to whom Sec. 217(g) applies.

The rate for service to a charitable organization is unchanged, set by statute at 14 cents per mile (Sec. 170(i)).

The portion of the business standard mileage rate that is treated as depreciation will be 27 cents per mile for 2020, 1 cent more than 2019, one of the few amounts that is increasing.

To compute the allowance under a fixed-and-variable-rate (FAVR) plan, the maximum standard automobile cost is $50,400 for 2020 for all automobiles (including trucks and vans), the same as in 2019. The FAVR amounts were recalculated in 2018 after the TCJA retroactively amended the bonus depreciation rules. Under a FAVR plan, a standard amount is deemed substantiated for an employer's reimbursement to employees for expenses they incur in driving their vehicle in performing services as an employee for the employer. Those rules were also updated in regulations the IRS issued that are discussed below in "IRS Regulations Update Maximum Vehicle Values."

In November 2019, the IRS updated the standard mileage rules to reflect provisions of the TCJA (see prior coverage at here).

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