Instead of figuring actual expenses, you can use the standard mileage rate of 51 cents per mile for travel during 2011. The standard mileage deduction is in lieu of deducting operating and fixed costs of the automobile. Depreciation is a component of the standard mileage rate, therefore, the basis in the automobile must be reduced by the depreciation allowed. However, if you use the standard mileage deduction, you can still deduct parking fees, tolls, interest relating to the automobile’s purchase, and state and local taxes. Up to four cars used simultaneously can be computed using the standard mileage rate.
If you want to use the standard mileage rate for a car in any year, you must choose to use it in the first year you place the car in service in your business. After the first year you can switch to deducting actual expenses.
If you choose to deduct actual expenses, you can deduct such items as oil, gas, insurance, depreciation, etc. However, there are special rules that apply if you use your car 50% or less in your business. Generally, you must use a car more than 50% for business to qualify for the §179 deduction (election to treat a portion of the cost of the car as an expense-see below) and there is a limit on the depreciation deduction. Using your car as an employee is treated as business use only if that use is for the convenience of your employer and required as a condition of your employment.
Generally, the cost of an automobile is a capital expenditure; however, if you use the automobile more than 50% for business purposes, you can elect to treat a portion of the cost, subject to yearly limits, as an expense in the year the automobile is placed in service. The yearly limit allowed is determined by the year the automobile is placed in service and the percentage of business use. A special rule for 2008, 2009, and 2010 allows an additional 50% first-year depreciation deduction and an $8,000 increase to the annual limitation amount.
For example, if an automobile is placed in service in 2010, the expense deduction and the depreciation deduction cannot be more than $11,060 for the first year (the placed-in-service year); $4,900 for the second year; $2,950 for the third year, and $1,775 for any year thereafter. This limit is reduced if the taxpayer uses the automobile more than 50%, but less than 100%, for business use.