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 Mystery Shopping, Merchandising & Demo
 Independent Contractor Taxes
 Can I Count Personal Trips as Mileage if I Do a Shop?
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Carmen A
Member

Central, TX
USA
43 Posts

Posted - 01/11/2014 :  6:02:17 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I have to go to certain towns on a regular basis for personal reasons. Could I catch shops in these towns to be able to count the mileage? Is this what you do? Do you count one way or both?

Carmen

JuanitaJ
Star Contributor

Houston, TX
USA
1082 Posts

Posted - 01/11/2014 :  7:44:03 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I only count the "additional" miles for the mystery shop. If I regularly go to my doctor who is 20 miles away, then sidetrack 5 miles to do a mystery shop, and then drive home, I only count the 5 miles.

Many times I actually pass by the mystery shop locations on my way to my appointments and then I don't count any mileage at all. I have bank shops that I look for that will be in the exact location where I will be that day and select those. I rarely count any mileage on them.

I do the same in reverse if my main reason for driving to the location is to do the mystery shop and then I sidetrack 5 miles to have lunch. I count all the miles for the mystery shop, less the 5 miles for lunch.

This is an area where people handle it different ways. Just be sure you can justify your mileage for the mystery shops. If you try to claim a large amount of mileage for small paying jobs, it sends up a red flag. We are in this to make money, not spend it all on gas.

I always show a profit each year on my Schedule C, not a huge profit, but nevertheless a profit.

Juanita
MSPA Gold Certified
Happily shopping the Houston, TX area.
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ActorMichael
Valued Contributor

USA
145 Posts

Posted - 04/02/2014 :  11:34:24 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
i would count the mileage. If i happen to be going somewhere anyway, i consider it to be very lucky and fortunate to get the mileage. I think it would be foolish not to count the mileage.

Michael
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Alan-Texas
Star Contributor

Arlington, TX
USA
542 Posts

Posted - 06/06/2014 :  12:40:51 AM  Visit Alan-Texas's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
I know this topic is a few months old, but I wanted to chime in with my response.

I count the mileage whenever I am heading to a shop even when I would have been in the area anyway for personal reasons. Also, if I head home immediately after doing a shop, then I count the mileage as well.

For example, I attend a church that is 26.1 miles from my home. Some Sundays, I take a breakfast shop that is close to my church. Even though I would have made the drive to that area anyway, I count the mileage from my home to the shop because the purpose of my driving at that moment is to get to the restaurant I am going to shop. Once I'm done with the shop, though, I am done counting mileage. So the rest of the trip to my church, as well as my trip home, is on my own dime.

Another example: I sometimes take a lunch shop for after church lets out. While I don't count the mileage going to church, I will count the mileage from the church to the restaurant and then from the restaurant back home. After all, the purpose in my car at that time was for business reasons.

Whether this would actually stand up to IRS scrutiny, I don't know. I could certainly see an argument on their end where they look at the primary reason you were in the area to start with. After all, I could plan a two-week vacation in Colorado and, in order to claim all those driving miles to and from Texas, take a shop near my Colorado destination and go there before going to the hotel and also take a shop near my home for when I return. Something tells me the IRS might frown on that.

Alan A.
MSPA Silver Certified
Shopping the Dallas / Ft. Worth area since 2005
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ChrisS
Contributor

USA
89 Posts

Posted - 06/13/2014 :  1:05:22 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Alan,

I try to keep the following guideline in mind from all the reading I've done on the subject:

The amount you claim for IRS mileage deduction/credit per day should not exceed the amount of profit made on the jobs worked.

Let's say I travel 60 miles round-trip performing mystery shops or merchandising (for which I am a 1099 employee). At the IRS rate of .56/mile, I should earn no less than $33.60 on that day.

Often, I find that my route on a particular day in a particular town is for both 1099 and W2 employers. I will write off all the mileage for that.

Again, just a guideline. Based on this guideline, your mystery shop on your vacation to Colorado probably wouldn't qualify (if you know of any jobs that pay THAT much, please let me know).

You just don't want to end up in a situation for more than 3 consecutive years where your deductions are more than your income.

Chris

Providing merchandising and related services to Southeastern Indiana.
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EdMikes
Valued Contributor

Salt Lake City, Utah
USA
172 Posts

Posted - 09/07/2014 :  09:17:58 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Technically No you can not.

Since it is personal and you are not using your car for a Business purpose the IRS will disallow.

However if you make the "personal" trip to the same location as you are working then it is not an issue. So say you need to shop at Wal-Mart but you have an audit to do at that store. Do your audit and then go shopping. You are in the store already.

That is what I tend to do. If you schedule two locations in one day and then shop at the last one it works out better.

Ed Mikes
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