Mileage Rates: Are You Over- or Under-Reimbursing Your Employees?

Many organizations use the IRS’s standard mileage rates to calculate deductible vehicle costs and reimburse employees. For 2019, the rate is 58 cents per mile driven for business.

The standard rates offer simplicity, but if you use the same rate for all employees, across all geographic areas, some employees will be over-reimbursed and others will be under-reimbursed (which can result in litigation). The standard rate is based on national averages, and doesn’t account for gas prices and other variable costs that change over time, nor does it reflect costs (such as insurance) that vary from state to state.

Although more complicated, other methodologies — such as the fixed and variable rate (FAVR) methodology — produce more accurate results and more favorable tax treatment. Under FAVR, employers reimburse individual employees based on their actual costs of owning and driving their vehicles for business. This includes a portion of employees’ fixed costs — such as insurance, taxes and depreciation — as well as variable costs, such as fuel and maintenance, that depend on the number of miles driven.

FAVR, which is the only methodology endorsed by the IRS, also allows both employers and employees to avoid taxes on reimbursed amounts.