Mileage and deductions

Should I record and deduct only the mileage to the shop or round trip to come home? Thanks!

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Depends.... If going to and from the shop from home was purely for that work, then I'd account for the all that mileage. If you're concerned for your understanding, just write a note for the mileage on what you accounted for, then leave it for your tax preparer to look at and approve. This approach may be more work than needed, but it's a safe approach.

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 31 year old male and willing to travel!
Round trip if you are not employed other than as a mystery shopper. If you have other employment as well then you need to consider what miles are 'commute' miles to your place of employment (not deductible), what miles are 'personal' miles (running the kids to soccer practice) and what are 'business miles' for your mystery shopping.
On my spreadsheet, I have one way mileage on the MSC sheet with all of the specifics. On my summary page with the totals, the mileage is linked and doubled to reflect both ways.

Also, as a contingency, I put in the maximum mileage for the shop (via Google Maps) as a contingency for when I get lost.

I let my tax dude sort it all out.

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
This has been discussed several times per year for many years. Based on that experience, many of us have concluded that the only answer that really passes IRS muster is that given by Flash. If you go to the IRS guide on this subject, there is (or has been) a decision tree to help you to sort this out for your situation if you also travel to other employment that is not reported on a schedule C. However, if you have only schedule C earnings, then, unless you make a significant detour for non-work reasons, your round trip is all business mileage. So, if I travel 20 miles RT to do three shops and, on my way home, divert a mile or so to pick up groceries, it can still all be claimed a business expense.

You would be amazed how many routes to and from MS assignments pass close to my pharmacy, dry cleaners, grocery and wine stores! (Oh, and the gas station where I spend grocery store rewards to lower the price by from 20 to 50 cents per gallon for every tank of gas.) Remember that if you go to Staples or Costco to buy printer supplies, note books, etc. that is a business related trip. Going to see your doctor or to Urgent Care? Don't forget to log that as medical (deductible) mileage. Donating clothing or toiletries to a shelter or other charity? If you itemize, that drive is deductible mileage on the charity list.

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
I certainly would not take one way mileage and multiply by two! Most of my shops are westbound on the outbound leg and eastbound to return home. Residential patterns, rush hours, one way streets, road construction and ease of left turns make it unlikely that my outbound and return trips are going to be on the same route, even if I am going out to a single location. It is about noon and if I needed to leave now for a location 7 miles to the west of me I would probably take a route that was about 8 miles going there and 7 miles returning home because Google Maps suggested best route would take me through an area with numerous banks, fast food and fast casual eateries. Noon on Friday the congestion there would be outrageous as employees try to deposit checks or get cash for the weekend while they are out to grab lunch or join colleagues for lunch. At 5PM today the best route from Google Maps would work for the outbound leg because rush hour traffic would have me going against traffic and I would take an alternate route home because rush hour traffic would have traffic backed up at every traffic light such that I would need to wait for 3-4 traffic light cycles to get through most of the stoplights.
And when a Merchandising Company or, even though it's almost unheard of, a MSC pays .31 cents a mile you can deduct the difference between the IRS rate and the reimbursed rate.
Spicy, correct. Good catch!

Flash, how right you are about different routes, depending on the time of day! That's another reason that it can be so easy to work my errands into my shopping miles!

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
Thanks for all the info! I am employed full time and generally do some mystery shopping on the weekends so my trips to and from are specifically for shops, not going anywhere else. I've been using the Stride app to record mileage (it's technically for Uber drivers, but I find it really great for tracking expenses and you can export all the data for tax time) anyhow, it occurred to me that I was tracking both mileage to and back from each shop and I wasn't sure if the ride home from the shop counted. I did a search for the IRS "tree" that was mentioned but no luck. I think that would be most helpful.
I have forced myself to write down the mileage to each location. Yes, I still mess up when I'm in one town and I have a few shops in said town.

I do not work for anyone else so my mileage is work mileage 85% of the time.

Truthfully, because of my convoluted tax return I leave it up to the family accountant.

But this is how it used to be when I did taxes. If you have a job gives a W2, you cannot take your mileage getting there. If you have a second job and it may also give you a W2, you are allowed to take the mileage from the 1st job to the second job. it was always fuzzy for me about the trip home.

I have read the IRS is trying to cut back on mileage allowances. Whether that is true or not, I have no idea.

My mileage is huge so the accountant uses her discretion,. This year my mileage will definitely be over 30K.

I believe Flash has given the best advice so far.

Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning; the devil shudders...And yells OH #%*+! SHE'S AWAKE!
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