5th Wheel

Today TaxMama hears from Brad in Jacksonville, NC  , who says, “I’ve been considering purchasing a (self-contained) motorhome/fifth wheel RV for use as lodging/office to use on my business travels. Can I write it off?”

Dear Brad, 

Your TaxMama didn’t always just do taxes. Once upon a time I used to be a dispatcher for the local Official Police Garage. 5th wheels are fine for the occasional vacation trip. But, please, do not use it regularly for business.
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They are among the most dangerous vehicles  on the road. Unless you are a trained and licensed truck driver, experienced in maneuvering through traffic with an attached vehicle…please, please, don’t tow anything on a regular basis.  Want to get a self-contained motorhome? Go for it. Those are easier to drive and to retain control of.
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  Believe me.  

In fact, an insurance investigator friend of mine had a contract with U-Haul, to investigate their customers’ accidents. He invited me along on a couple of his accident site investigations and explained, from the skid marks and positions of the vehicles, what went wrong and why. I am convinced that I never want to drive one of those puppies – and I’m pretty bold.

OK, to your tax question. Yes, if you are traveling in the vehicle for business, you may write off the cost of operating it, all repairs and modifications, insurance, registration, cleaning it…all as a business expense. You get to deduct the rental space, too. You may also deduct the interest expense – but only if you’re in business.
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If you’re traveling for a job, sorry, you can’t use the interest. But, you may take depreciation for it, just as you would a car.
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There’s a great deal of information about how to deduct auto expenses and travel expenses in IRS Publication 463.

However, you might consider using per diem expenses for your travel.
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You may want to see if the per diem tables give you a higher deduction than using the trailer. (You’ll find the per diem tables in TaxMama’s Quick Look-Ups.) Let’s face it, if you’re on the road for 150 days for business and you use the average IRS lodging per diem rate, it’s $77.  You’d be able to deduct more than $11,500. If that’s higher, use that instead of the complications of writing off the trailer.

That way, you may still be able to use the registration and interest on Schedule A as your residence or vacation home. This may make the difference between itemizing and not. 

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about business expenses and other tax issues, free. Where? Where else? At www.TaxMama.com.

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