Does Uber Track Your Miles? (What to Do if You Haven't Kept a Mileage Log)
If you drive for Uber, you can save a lot on your taxes by writing off the miles you log on the job. But say you forgot to keep track of them yourself. Does Uber track your miles for you?
Yes! The Uber app attempts to record all your “online miles” — the miles you drive while you have the app open.
Uber’s in-app tracking won’t always tell the full story about your deductible miles. But if you haven’t been logging them yourself, you can use Uber and other tools to reconstruct your business miles at tax time.
The mileage Uber tracks for you
These days, the Uber driver app attempts to track all the miles you drive while you have the app open: your online miles.
These can include the miles you drove on the way to a pickup, with a passenger — or UberEats delivery — in the car, and while waiting for your next trip. (This hasn’t always been the case — a few years ago, Uber only tracked the miles you drove while on a trip.)
You’ll see the total online miles tracked by Uber on your tax summary every year. To find this Uber tax document, go to the Tax Information tab of your Driver Dashboard. (It should be available by January 31.)
What Uber doesn’t track
At bare minimum, you can write off all the miles that Uber tracks for you. But online miles that the app reports might end up seeming low to you.
If you rely on Uber for your deductible miles, you’ll probably end up underreporting — and overpaying on your taxes. Some of your “offline” miles, after all, may still be tax-deductible.
For example, the app may not account for miles you drove to rides that ended up being canceled. You might also leave the app off when you drive to a grocery store to pick up passenger goodies, like mints and water bottles. Since you’re buying supplies for work, those miles are tax-deductible, even though you weren’t on your way to a passenger.
Because Uber tends to undercount your tax-deductible miles, most experienced drivers keep their own, separate mileage records, using a mileage log or mileage tracker app.
Forgot to do this? Don’t worry — there are still ways to claim your work miles.
What to do if you forgot to track your miles
Mileage tracking can lead to hefty deductions for rideshare drivers. But you’re not out of luck if you haven’t been keeping up with your mileage log — or if you didn’t know you were supposed to keep one in the first place.
The IRS actually offers some guidance on deducting mileage when you have incomplete records. Turns out, forgetting to track your miles is actually pretty common.
If you haven’t been keeping your own mileage records, here’s what to do come tax season.
1. Look at your tax summary
The first step is easy: Just grab your Uber mileage from your tax summary. At the very least, you’ll be able to deduct these miles from your taxes.
2. Reconstruct your “lost” miles
Next, you’ll try to reverse-engineer all the other miles that you drove, to the best of your ability. Here are a few ways to reconstruct those lost miles.
Good news: The IRS website actually gives some guidance on how to take deductions when you don't have complete records. It mentions a technique called “sampling”.
Basically, if you kept good mileage records for part of the year, you can use those to “prove” your miles for the rest of the year. You just have to be able to show that the part of the year you did track was representative of your driving for the rest of the year.
Here’s an example: Say there was a month where you were really good about keeping detailed records during the first week. After that, you kind of… dropped off.
Your records from Uber show you did the same amount of driving in the other weeks of that month, so that first week was representative of the month as a whole. So you’d be able to extend that first week’s records to cover the whole month.
You can also use this sampling technique on a month-by-month basis, to cover the whole year. Say you only started tracking your Uber miles late in the year (because you didn’t realize you were supposed to before then).
If your Uber income from those months was consistent with what you made in the months you didn’t track, you can treat your partial record as a sample of the whole year’s deductible mileage.
🛣️ Google Maps
If you have Google Maps on your phone, you might be able to use it to reclaim some of your lost miles.
For this to work, you’ll have to have given the app permission to track you. With that setting enabled, just tap your profile picture and click on “Your timeline” to see a history of where you’ve traveled. You can use this to reconstruct some of the driving you did that wasn’t captured by the Uber app.
Your Google Maps timeline won’t be completely accurate. It tends to take periodic snapshots of your location, and then backfill the route between those points. This tends to make it look like you’ve been driving In a series of straight lines, when in reality you may have taken winding side roads.
That’s why you should expect Google Maps to slightly undercount your mileage. Still, what it does report will help you get tax savings you otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
🍏 iPhone Apple Maps
Are you an iPhone user who likes to stay within the Apple ecosystem? You can still get some of your location history from the iPhone Maps app — it just won’t be as detailed as what you see in Google Maps.
Instead of approximate, reconstructed routes, Apple Maps will just show you the places that you visited, and when. You can use these to reverse-engineer some of the miles you’ve driven, but it’ll require you to manually figure out the distance between points — a bit of an arduous task sometimes.
To see your location history in your iPhone, go to Settings, then navigate to Privacy—>Location Services—>System Services—>Significant Locations. If you’ve enabled the right privacy settings, you’ll see the list of places you’ve been.
3. Figure out the total mileage you drove
When you claim your miles (and other business expenses), you’ll have to fill out Schedule C. This form also asks you for the total miles you drove for the entire year, including for personal reasons.
The best way to find your total miles, of course, is to look at your odometer reading at the beginning and the end of the year. But if you haven’t done that, you can also grab it from your car maintenance records.
Figuring out your total mileage is useful in one other way: it can help you validate all the work you did to reconstruct your lost miles. Check that against your total miles, and you’ll have a sense of whether your reconstructions make sense. (In any case, you'll know you made a mistake if your reconstructed work mileage ends up being higher than your total mileage!)
4. Maximize your other deductions
Mileage and car expenses aren’t the only write-offs you can take as a rideshare driver. Like other independent contractors, business owners, and self-employed people, you’re entitled to all kinds of tax deductions.
From floor mats to passenger goodies, from premium music subscriptions to a portion of your phone bill, these write-offs are not to be missed. You can even deduct some car-related expenses on top of your mileage, like car washes, parking fees, and tolls. (More on that later!)
If you’re worried about underreported miles, being diligent about these other write-offs can help you make sure you wind up with a reasonable tax bill.
Tracking these expenses is easy with Keeper Tax, which automatically scans your purchases for eligible write-offs. Use this app to make sure you’re not missing out on any deductions — from your cell phone mount to the barf bags you keep in your backseat pocket just in case.
How to track your mileage in the future
As you’ve learned, Uber tracks some of your tax-deductible miles, and you can use various strategies to reconstruct some of the rest.
Still, if you drive a lot, it’s a good idea to keep a mileage log as you go. That way, you can skip the tedious process of reverse-engineering your routes from a bunch of maps data.
You can keep a mileage log in your car, using it to jot down your odometer reading at the beginning and end of all your business trips. (You’ll also want to take a peek at it at the beginning and end of the year to get the total miles you drove.) Alternatively, you can use a mileage tracking app.
Writing off your miles
Most Uber and Lyft drivers want to know the miles they drove for work because they’re using the standard mileage deduction to write off their car expenses. With this method, you take all your business mileage for the year and multiply it by a standard mileage rate set by the IRS. (In 2021, this flat rate was $0.56.)
There’s another option for taking car write-offs: the actual expenses method. This involves tracking what you actually spend on your car over the course of the year, things like gas, insurance, repairs, maintenance — even lease payments and vehicle depreciation. (Car washes, parking fees, tolls, and DMV fees can be deducted on top of the standard mileage rate, but these expenses replace your miles.) Then, you multiply your total spend by the percentage of time you drove for business purposes.
If you log a lot of miles for work purposes, the standard mileage method tends to help you save more money on your taxes. That’s why most rideshare drivers prefer tracking miles to tracking their actual car expenses.
That said, it’s still important to take every deduction you qualify for — not just the ones that are covered by your mileage. That’s where Keeper Tax comes in. Use it to make sure you’re not missing out on any write-offs, from your iPhone to the mini water bottles you offer riders.
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At Keeper Tax, we’re on a mission to help freelancers overcome the complexity of their taxes. That sometimes leads us to generalize tax advice. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.