With the sky high price of gas that seems to be venturing to new heights by the week, mystery shoppers have been struggling with their own travel costs for doing a mystery shop assignment. The low shop pay on most assignments often barely covers the cost of gas to get to the shop, leaving little in the way of a profit for a shopper’s time and efforts. To overcome this, mystery shoppers have been considering shop assignments that are closer to home as well as asking for additional travel pay to cover their own costs associated with doing the shop. Shoppers have also been more diligent about keeping track of their mileage with a log book to ensure their cost of travel can be written off on their tax return at the end of the year.
Now, thanks to the IRS, there is good news for mystery shoppers! For the first half of 2008, the mileage rate you could write off on your tax returns as a business expense was 50.5 cents per mile. The IRS has recognized the increased gas price as well as the higher rate for other costs associated with the maintenance of your vehicle, and has increased the mileage rate for the second half of 2008. For any business miles you travel from July 1 through December 31, 2008, you can now write-off 58.5 cents per mile!
The bottom line effect for you means that it may be worthwhile for you to take shops a little farther away. For instance, take a shop that is 15 miles from your house. Traveling to the shop and back home will be 30 total miles, so your write-off will be $17.55. Under the mileage rate for the first half of the year, your write-off would have only been $15.15. So, in effect, you will get the equivalent of $3.40 additional write-off for a 15 mile shop, or just shy of the cost of a gallon of gas. Likewise, a shop that is 30 miles away, or 60 miles round trip, would result in a $6.80 additional write-off.
Shoppers who have more fuel efficient vehicles will enjoy the increased benefit of stretching the higher mileage rate farther. Meaning, that additional 8 cent per mile write-off will be more worthwhile if you have a vehicle that gets 35 miles per gallon than one that gets 12 miles per gallon.
So while an extra gallon of gas may be worthwhile for some shoppers, it may not seem like much for others. For those shoppers who do not see much benefit of the increased mileage rate on the surface, consider the effects of this increased mileage rate over the 6-month period. If you typically do one shop per week, you will see a savings of over $60 in a 6-month period compared to the old mileage rate, which is almost a full tank of gas for most vehicles!
Remember, you have to keep a mileage log and track your miles on each shop to get the most out of this new tax change. So take a little time on your end to do the paperwork now, and you will see increased financial rewards at tax time!