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How to keep a vehicle log book
07 June, 2022 - 2 min read

How to keep an ATO vehicle log book

You need to keep an ATO-compliant vehicle log book that will serve as proof that you have driven the kilometres for business purposes you claim a deduction for from the Tax Office. In general, if you use your car frequently for work, the logbook method will result in a larger tax refund than the cents per kilometre method.

Using the logbook method allows you to claim a percentage of all of your car expenses (fuel, registration, maintenance, interest on loans etc.) The other method of claiming car expenses - the cents per kilometre method, allows you to claim a fixed rate per business kilometre.

Filling out your ATO vehicle log book

In order to make sure your ATO vehicle log book is compliant, there are a few things that you must fill out as they can cost you your whole deduction claim.

Make sure to record:

  • when the logbook period begins and ends
  • the total number of kilometres you’ve driven during the logbook period
  • the number of kilometres travelled for each journey 
  • the odometer readings at the beginning and end of each subsequent income year your logbook is valid for
  • the business-use percentage for the logbook period
  • the vehicle's make, model, engine capacity, and registration number
  • the odometer readings of the car at the start and end of the logbook period

Keep in mind that each motor vehicle log book you have is valid for five years, but you can start a new one at any time. If you use a car logbook app, a lot of this information will be logged automatically.

It's critical to keep track of every trip you take in your car for 12 weeks, not just work trips. If you fail to do so, the ATO will consider your logbook invalid and may reject all of your car expense claims.

Finally, if you use the logbook method to claim actual vehicle expenses, remember to keep all receipts and invoices for the expenses you’ve incurred throughout the year.

Is the logbook method very time-consuming? 

The logbook method might take quite some time depending on how many trips you take, but you will make sure to claim all actual expenses related to using your vehicle for business purposes. However, using an app to log your trips should reduce the time you spend on it significantly. By using a mileage tracking app, you don’t have to log your trips anymore as the app can do it automatically for you. You will only need to keep track of your receipts.

Tyres of vehicle log books

There are a few motor vehicle log book options out there. The most classic option is the physical log book which you can purchase online or from various supply shops. Nowadays, many people use spreadsheets, Excel files and PDF files as a logbook. Using a digital vehicle log book such as a logbook app is definitely preferable nowadays as they retain your logged information, giving you peace of mind should you be audited at a later stage.

Using a logbook app as a motor vehicle log book is growing in popularity as it helps you spend a lot less time logging trips, and reviewing and inputting data manually. The vehicle log book app does most of the work for you. 

If you are an employer or a manager, the motor vehicle log book app option may be the best choice for you as it will allow you to quickly review and validate your team’s reimbursement claims with easy workflows for submitting and approving mileage. You will also be able to receive accurate and consistent mileage reports from your team and get an overview of your team’s status easily. You can try the Driversnote ATO compliant log book app for free.

How to calculate your claim with your vehicle log book

If you want to figure out how much you can claim when using the logbook method, you can try the following method for estimating your reimbursement. 

  • To begin with, make sure you are keeping an accurate motor vehicle log book
  • Calculate your business-use percentage by dividing the total distance travelled by the distance travelled for business and multiplying by 100.
  • Total your car expenses for the fiscal year.
  • Multiply your total car expenses by your percentage of business use.

If you claim your work kilometres through the cents per kilometre method, you still keep an ATO vehicle log book, but there’s no need to collect receipts of your car-related expenses.

Use our cents per km calculator to see how much you’ll be able to claim for your business-related driving.

Not located in Australia? Find out how to keep a logbook in the UK, US or Canada.

How to automate your mileage logbook

Manually filling out your logbook can get tedious - see how to automatically track trips for your mileage reimbursement or deductions.
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