How Much of a Car Lease Can I Write Off?

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You can write off business expenses on a leased car.
You can write off business expenses on a leased car. (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Leasing a car is a valuable alternative to purchasing a new vehicle if you want low monthly payments, a minimal down payment, no upfront sales tax and affordable maintenance. When you lease a vehicle, you are paying for the use of the car so you never owe more than the car is worth. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers tax benefits if you lease a car for business-related activities.

Personal Use

If you use a leased vehicle for personal use only, you cannot write off any car expenses on your federal tax return. If you use your leased vehicle for both personal and work-related activities, you can only deduct certain expenses related to its business use.

Work-related Expenses

You can write off work-related expenses by either deducting the standard mileage rate or by deducting actual expenses. According to the IRS, you can include gas, oil, repairs, tires, insurance, registration fees, licenses and lease payments for the portion of miles that were business-related. Parking fees and tolls are also deducible regardless of whether you choose to deduct the standard mileage rate or actual expenses. All expenses must be itemized on Schedule C of Form 1040, as of 2011.

Reimbursed by Employer

If your employer reimburses you for expenses related to the use of your leased car, you cannot deduct those expenses on your federal tax return. The IRS does not consider the reimbursements to be taxable income, so you cannot deduct the expenses on Schedule C of Form 1040. Your employer can take the work expense deduction on his annual return.

Lease Inclusion Amount

According to the IRS, an additional fee can be assessed on a work-related leased vehicle that will reduce your tax deduction. The lease inclusion amount balances out the tax difference between depreciating the vehicle and writing off the lease. IRS Publication 463 provides tables showing lease inclusion fees for vehicles based on their fair market value and lease term. The fee does not increase your income but only decreases the amount of your lease payment tax deduction.

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