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I have included this information because I thought it was important. Most tax preparers think they know about records and record keeping, but the fact is they donít. Most donít even have a clue about records. Below is a very condensed version of what the IRS thinks records are and what record keeping is all about.

What Records Must Be Kept (Time, Date, Place & Purpose)

To meet the adequate records requirement, you must maintain an account book, diary, log, statement of expense, trip sheet, or similar record or other documentary evidence that, together with the receipt, is sufficient to establish each element of an expenditure or use. It is not necessary to record information in an account book, diary, or similar record if the information is already shown on the receipt. However, your records should back up your receipts in an orderly manner.

Elements of Expenditure or Use

The records or other documentary evidence must support:

1) The amount of each separate expenditure, such as the cost of acquiring the item, maintenance and repair costs, capital improvement costs, lease payments, and any other expenses,

2) The amount of each business and investment use (based on an appropriate measure, such as mileage for vehicles and time for other listed property), and the total use of the property for the tax year,

3) The date of the expenditure or use, and

4) The business or investment purpose for the expenditure or use.

Written documents of your expenditure or use are generally better evidence than oral statements alone. A written record prepared at or near the time of the expenditure or use has greater value as proof of the expenditure or use. A daily log is not required. However, some type of record containing the elements of an expenditure or the business or investment use of listed property made at or near the time and backed up by other documents is preferable to a statement prepared later.

Timeliness

The elements of an expenditure or use must be recorded at the time you have full knowledge of the elements. An expense account statement made from an account book, diary, or similar record prepared or maintained at or near the time of the expenditure or use is generally considered a timely record if in the regular course of business:

1) The statement is submitted by an employee to the employer, or

2) The statement is submitted by an independent contractor to the client or customer.

Business Purpose Supported

An adequate record of business purpose must generally be in the form of a written statement. However, the amount of backup necessary to establish a business purpose depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. A written explanation of the business purpose will not be required if the purpose can be determined from the surrounding facts and circumstances. For example, a salesperson visiting customers on an established sales route will not normally need a written explanation of the business purpose of his or her travel.

Business Use Supported

An adequate record contains enough information on each element of every business or investment use. The amount of detail required to support the use depends on the facts and circumstances. For example, a taxpayer whose only business use of a truck is to make customer deliveries on an established route can satisfy the requirement by recording the length of the route, including the total number of miles driven during the tax year and the date of each trip at or near the time of the trips.

Although an adequate record generally must be written, a record of the business use of listed property, such as a computer or automobile, can be prepared in a computer memory device using a logging program.

Separate or Combined Expenditures or Uses

Each use by you is normally considered a separate use. However, repeated uses can be combined as a single item. Each expenditure is recorded as a separate item and not combined with other expenditures. If you choose, however, amounts spent for the use of listed property during a tax year, such as for gasoline or automobile repairs, can be combined. If these expenses are combined, you do not need to support the business purpose of each expense. Instead, you can divide the expenses based on the total business use of the listed property.

Uses which can be considered part of a single use, such as a round trip or uninterrupted business use, can be accounted for by a single record. For example, use of a truck to make deliveries at several locations which begin and end at the business premises and can include a stop at the business in between deliveries can be accounted for by a single record of miles driven. Use of a passenger automobile by a salesperson for a business trip away from home over a period of time can be accounted for by a single record of miles traveled. Minimal personal use (such as a stop for lunch between two business stops) is not an interruption of business use.

Confidential Information

If any of the information on the elements of an expenditure or use is confidential, it does not need to be in the account book or similar record if it is recorded at or near the time of the expenditure or use. It must be kept elsewhere and made available as support to the district director on request.

Substantial Compliance

If you have not fully supported a particular element of an expenditure or use, but have complied with the adequate records requirement for the expenditure or use to the district director's satisfaction, you can establish this element by any evidence the district director deems adequate.

If you fail to establish that you have substantially complied with the adequate records requirement for an element of an expenditure or use to the district director's satisfaction, you must establish the element:

1) By your own oral or written statement containing detailed information as to the element, and

2) By other evidence sufficient to establish the element.

If the element is the cost or amount, time, place, or date of an expenditure or use, its supporting evidence must be direct, such as oral testimony by witnesses or a written statement setting forth detailed information about the element or the documentary evidence. If the element is the business purpose of an expenditure, its supporting evidence can be circumstantial evidence.

Sampling *

You can maintain an adequate record for portions of a tax year and use that record to support your business and investment use for the entire tax year if it can be shown by other evidence that the periods for which an adequate record is maintained are representative of use throughout the year.

Example

Denise Williams, a sole proprietor and calendar year taxpayer, operates an interior decorating business out of her home. She uses her automobile for local business visits to the homes or offices of clients, meetings with suppliers and subcontractors, and to pick up and deliver items to clients. There is no other business use of the automobile, but she and family members also use it for personal purposes. She maintains adequate records for the first three months of 1995 showing that 75% of the automobile use was for business. Subcontractor invoices and paid bills show that her business continued at approximately the same rate for the remainder of 1995. If there is no change in circumstances, such as the purchase of a second car for exclusive use in her business, the determination that her combined business/investment use of the automobile for the tax year is 75% rests on sufficient supporting evidence.

Example 2. Assume the same facts as in Example 1 except that Denise maintains adequate records during the first week of every month showing that 75% of her use of the automobile is for business. Her business invoices show that her business continued at the same rate during the later weeks of each month so that her weekly records are representative of the automobile's business use throughout the month. The determination that her business/investment use of the automobile for the tax year is 75% rests on sufficient supporting evidence.

Loss of Records

When you establish that failure to produce adequate records is due to loss of the records through circumstances beyond your control, such as through fire, flood, earthquake, or other casualty, you have the right to support a deduction by reasonable reconstruction of your expenditures and use.

How Long To Keep Records

For listed property, records must be kept for as long as any excess depreciation can be recaptured (included in income).

For property placed in service after 1986, recapture can occur in any tax year of the ADS recovery period.

Deductions in Later Years

When listed property is used for business, investment, and personal purposes, no deduction is allowable for its personal use either in the current year or any later tax year. In later years, you must determine if there is any remaining unadjusted or unrecovered basis before you compute the depreciation deduction for that tax year. In making this determination, figure the depreciation deductions for earlier tax years as if the listed property were used 100% for business or investment purposes in those years, beginning with the first tax year in which some or all of the property use is for business or investment.