Tax deductions are a way to lower your taxable income, so you can decrease the amount of taxes that you owe the government. Thinking about the different IRS-approved deductions as you prepare your tax returns may lead you to wonder: Is auto insurance tax deductible? The answer depends on how you use the car and other factors.
For specific questions about your own taxes, consult a tax professional for trusted advice. For general information, keep reading.
Using a car for work
Generally, you can calculate business vehicle expenses one of two ways: the standard mileage rate or the actual expense method. Depending on your situation, you might qualify for one or both methods. If you qualify for both – and you don’t mind crunching the numbers – it might be worth it to calculate both ways to see which method gets you the bigger deduction.
Standard mileage rate: Auto insurance isn’t itemized as its own expense, but rolled into the government calculated rate (54.5 cents/mile in 2018 or 56 cents/mile in 2019).
- Actual expense method: List the separate costs of operating the car (including gas, oil, repairs, tires and insurance) and deduct the percentage of those costs that can be attributed to miles driven for business.
Of course, it’s possible your car expenses (including auto insurance) might not be tax deductible at all. Here’s what to expect in a few common situations:
For business owners: According to the IRS, businesses that own and are dependent on the use of company cars or a fleet of vehicles may deduct auto insurance as a business expense if it is for your trade, business or profession.
If you’re self-employed: If you are self-employed and use your car exclusively for your business, you may be able to deduct certain car expenses, including your insurance premium.
You may also qualify for this deduction if you are an employee and your employer does not reimburse you for business-related car expenses (subject to certain limitations by the IRS).
- If you use your car for both business and personal reasons: In this situation, only the portion used for business reasons is tax deductible. You can’t claim your commute to and from work, but there are deductions available for work-related driving duties like visiting clients or picking up work supplies.
For more information on business use of your car, read this tax topics guide on the IRS website.
What about expenses related to an auto insurance claim?
Using your car only for personal reasons like running errands or going shopping, it is not a write-off on your tax returns. But if your car was stolen or totaled after an accident that wasn’t your fault and the damage exceeds the limits in your insurance policy, you may be able to claim the loss as a tax deduction. Limitations may apply based on the damage costs and your income.
Ask a professional for advice
It’s a good idea to get in touch with a certified public accountant or tax professional to review the IRS guidelines for business expenses and make sure that you are entitled to these and other tax deductions.
It can also be a good time to review your auto insurance policy to be sure that you have the coverages that you need.
Contact a local ERIE agent for more information about insurance coverage.
This story was originally published in 2018. It was updated with new information on March 15, 2019.
Posted on 14 March 2019 | 9:00 pm
Whether it’s camping, biking, kayaking or skiing, there’s nothing quite like spending time outdoors. Getting outside can be a great way to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life, allowing you to clear your head while enjoying the added benefits of sunshine, fresh air and exercise.
But as the seasons begin to change, so do the outdoor recreation activities you’re able to enjoy. And this fact inevitably leads us to the hassle of storing all that gear for the offseason.
After all, you won’t need to keep your sleds, snowshoes or snowboard on hand once April and May arrive. And you probably won’t be needing your tent, fishing gear, golf clubs or lawn games when the snow starts to fall.
Initially, the thought of packing away all your outdoor equipment may raise more questions than answers. Like, “How did I accumulate so much stuff?” and “Where am I going to store this?”
But don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Instead, follow these tips on how to safely organize and store your gear so it’s ready when you need it:
How to store winter gear
Clean: Before packing your gear away for the summer, wash off any dirt, salt or grime with warm water. If you’re having trouble cleaning things up, try using a mild soap or base cleaner for skis and snowboards.
Dry: Never pack your winter equipment away wet. Instead, dry off sleds, skis and snowboards with a towel. And bring your boots inside to make sure the liners are completely dry.
Wax: For snowsports equipment, apply a liberal coating of hot wax to your base. Just don’t scrape it off like you would before hitting the slopes. Instead, let the wax protect your base and edges until you take your skis or snowboard out of storage.
Store: Gear like sleds and snow tubes can be tucked away in your garage or shed during warmer months. But skis, snowboards and boots should be stored in climate-controlled environments. You may think about keeping them in your basement or a closet to protect against damage from heat and humidity.
How to store summer gear
Clean: Spray off all that mud, dirt or sand from your gear. And consider throwing items like sleeping bags into the washing machine so they’re fresh and clean for the spring.
Dry: When it comes to storing almost anything, moisture is your enemy. It can cause metal components to rust, and fabrics like tents to become susceptible to mold and mildew. So make sure everything has been dried thoroughly before you put it away.
Store: Most sporting equipment like golf clubs, kayaks and bikes are safe to keep in a garage or shed. To free up floor space, consider storing items in the rafters, or hang them from hooks in a wall or ceiling. For oversized equipment like boogie boards or snorkeling gear, you can also try bigger cabinets, buckets or bins.
Choosing a storage location
For gear that needs a climate-controlled environment, try to carve out space in your home’s basement or a closet. Remember that anything with leather, wood, wicker or electronics could be damaged from moisture and extreme heat or cold temperatures.
For your less sensitive equipment, attics, backyard sheds and garages all work great. In fact, a survey from Gladiator GarageWorks found that about 1 in 4 people use their garages exclusively for storage, choosing not to park a car there.
Want more tips to keep things organized? Read this list of 9 hacks to help organize your garage.
Renting a storage unit
Paying for someone else to store your gear can be a good option if you’re running low on space at home. Just keep these questions in mind:
How clean is the facility? Ask if the empty spaces are routinely washed. And make a visit in-person before making a commitment. If you see any signs of moisture or mold, consider another facility.
What kind of access does it offer? If your storage unit doesn’t have drive-up access, you could be hauling items up and down flights of stairs. Some facilities also limit hours for access, so consider when and how often you’ll need to get to your things.
- Is it safe? Every unit should have a lock on it. But you may also consider asking if extra security is provided from video surveillance or password-protected gates.
Read more tips in our blog post on what to look for in a storage unit.
Following these tips will help ensure your outdoor gear stays safe and secure until it’s time for your next adventure.
It’s the same kind of peace of mind you get with Erie Insurance. Because when you trust that your insurance coverage is spot on, you can spend less time worrying – and more time living. Interested? Find a local Erie Insurance agent to get you there.
Posted on 13 March 2019 | 9:00 pm
Your car has battled snow, ice, salt and potholes for months on end. Now that winter’s in the rear view mirror, certain aspects of your car need a little more TLC than others.
spring car maintenance: 8 things to check
Tires: In the snow belt, now is the time to swap your snow tires for your all-season tires. If you kept your all-season tires on all winter, you’ll want to have them rotated. That’s because the drive wheels get worn down faster in all conditions, but especially in harsh winter conditions. By having them regularly rotated (about every 5,000 to 7,500 miles although your vehicle owner’s manual will tell you what is recommended for your car), they will more evenly distribute the wear-and-tear and extend the life of your tires.
Also, if you’re keeping your all-season tires on all year, make sure to check the tire pressure. Cold air lowers tire pressure, which reduces the traction your tires have with the road. The tire pressure may have improved automatically when the weather warmed up, but it’s still best to check. (If one tire is particularly low, it could mean there’s a puncture or leak.)
Windshield wiper blades: Your wiper blades were probably working overtime removing snow and slush off your windshield. That, along with the fact that cold temperatures wear down blades, means you’ll want to inspect them in the spring. Clean the rubber insert with a lint free rag and window cleaner and replace them if they look worn, squeak or don’t completely clear water off your windshield.
Wipers survive winter, but not your windshield? Talk to your ERIE agent about your auto insurance policy coverage details and ERIE’s glass claims service.
Related: What You Should Know About ‘Windshield Bullies’
Body of the car: The salt used on winter roads can corrode your car, which can cause rust to form. This is especially true when it comes to the car’s underbody. Get things under control by taking your car to a car wash that has high-pressure regular and under-sprays. It will clear off the salt, which will let you inspect your car for any small pits and bubbles that could be the start of a rust spot.
Definitely take your car to a shop if you notice the beginnings of a rust spot. Before next winter, you might also want to stop back to have your car pre-treated with an oil solution under-spray that will help resist winter road salt damage.
- Brakes: Brakes work harder in the winter, so it’s a good idea to give a close listen to them. If they make any strange noises, take your car to a pro ASAP. You might also consider having your brake pads and drums checked, especially if your car is on the higher end of the mileage spectrum. It’s easy to become used to the feel of worn brakes.
- Fluids: It’s important to check your car’s fluid levels since cars tend to use more fluids in the winter. Have a pro check your brake, oil, windshield, coolant, battery and transmission fluid levels. Also ask him or her to test your battery’s charge since extremely cold temperatures can take a toll on batteries. (Some auto supply stores will test your battery for free – call ones in your area to find out of they offer complimentary service.)
- Engine air filter: A clean engine air filter helps the engine take in fresh, clean air. If it’s clogged, the engine has to work harder. That can lower your fuel economy, so make sure to replace your engine air filter about every 15,000 miles.
- Interior of car: Now is the time to wash the floor liners, vacuum and clean out any trash that’s accumulated. You might also consider applying a protective dressing to the interior vinyl to give it a barrier against the sunshine-filled days ahead.
- Alignment: Potholes can knock your car out of alignment. If your car pulls in one direction instead of maintaining a straight path, it could be out of alignment. Have a pro check its alignment if that’s the case. (Also check in with your state or city to see if they accept pothole claims for damage your car sustains on a state or city roadway.)
This story was originally published in 2018. It was updated with new information on March 13, 2019.
Posted on 12 March 2019 | 9:00 pm
Maybe your tax refund is burning a hole in your pocket. Or maybe your son or daughter finally fled the nest and the empty room is driving you crazy.
Whatever your motivation, there are lots of reasons to personalize some extra space in your home. Even better? Consumer Reports estimates that adding a flex or double-duty room can potentially boost your home’s value by 4 to 6 percent.
Whether it’s a spare bedroom, the basement or extra space above the garage, you’ve got options. Looking for ideas? Check out this list.
Flex Room Design Ideas
Workout space: Make a home gym with rubber flooring, fitness equipment and free weights. Or, mellow out when you design your own yoga sanctuary. Either way, mirrors can help you check your form and make a smaller space appear larger.
Kids’ playroom: Whether it’s for your own kids, grandkids or a home babysitting setup, the little ones will love having their own space – and you’ll love being able to shut the door to hide the mess! Houzz has this list of ideas for designing a playroom.
Arts and crafts room: Here’s your excuse to splurge on swoon-worthy home organization! Creative hobbies like sewing, painting, knitting or quilting require lots of supplies. A designated space can help keep your creative focus… and keep all your bits and bobs in the right place. Get more hobby room inspiration in this list from HGTV.
Movie theater: With a home theater, the whole family can enjoy the big-screen experience without the overpriced popcorn. The must-haves? A projector, comfy seating, dimmable lighting and a solid sound system. Amp up your next showing with this list of creative family movie night ideas.
Music room: Pro tip: Soundproofing makes at-home recordings sound cleaner… and keeps the neighbors happy, too. Whether you want a home recording studio or just a space to jam with friends, opt for bold, inspirational colors, mood lighting and lots of storage space. See more music room design inspiration from The Home Edit.
Just finished a renovation? Talk to your insurance agent
If you’re tackling a major home improvement project, don’t forget to check in with your insurance agent. Major improvements that add value to your home often mean you need a higher limit on your homeowners insurance.
One more thing: Does your existing homeowners coverage include 100% Guaranteed Replacement Cost*? If you’re not sure, find a local ERIE agent to ask for a quote. Guaranteed Replacement Cost is different than an actual cash value (ACV) homeowners policy, which subtracts wear and tear and depreciation from your payment if your home is damaged. An ERIE agent can help you understand the difference and why it matters.
With a Guaranteed Replacement Cost homeowners policy from Erie Insurance, we require notification of home improvements of more than $5,000 within 90 days so we can update your policy and ensure you have the right protection. It’s just one more way we’re looking out for you.
See what makes us different. Learn more about homeowners insurance from ERIE and request a free quote online.
Posted on 11 March 2019 | 9:00 pm
If you’re looking for motivation to get off the couch, running a 5K is a great fitness goal to work toward. Don’t be intimidated by the number. At a distance of just over three miles, a good training program can have you crossing the finish line of your first 5K in just a few months.
Where to start
There are plenty of benefits to running for exercise. It’s been proven to improve both your physical and mental health. And because you can run nearly anywhere, it’s an activity that’s accessible to anyone.
But you should first talk to your doctor to see if you’re healthy enough to start training. Once you’re cleared to begin, it’s time to set your goal and get to work!
What to expect
The biggest rookie mistake many aspiring runners make is trying to do too much, too fast. This can lead to an injury, which will set you back from achieving your goal. So don’t overdo it during your first few workouts. Instead, follow a 5K training plan.
Most programs give you about 8-12 weeks of training leading up to the race, which helps you steadily build stamina. You can start with an online training plan, like this series of 5K training programs from Runners World. Some are more aggressive than others, so be sure to choose one that’s a good fit for your level of fitness and running experience.
Once you pick a plan, your training will include a combination of walking, running and rest. Here’s a look at what you can expect:
Walking: Most programs recommend that you run and walk in the same workout. For the first few weeks, you’ll walk more than you run. But as time goes on, you’ll get stronger and start walking less.
Running: If you’ve never exercised much, this will be the most intimidating part of the program. The important thing to remember is you should run at a pace that’s comfortable for you, even if it’s a casual jog. Remember, the ultimate goal of your 5K is to cover the distance — not to set a record-breaking time.
Rest: When you’re training, putting your feet up can be just as important working out. Giving your muscles time to recover will build your strength and help prevent injuries. Training programs often have rest days built in, so you’ll have something to look forward to after a hard day of running.
Listen to your body
Any time you start a new workout program, it’s important to listen to your body. Factors like uneven terrain, bad form and overtraining can all cause running injuries. Wearing the wrong type of running shoes can cause injuries, too.
Follow your trainer or doctor’s advice to treat any specific conditions you’re experiencing. For general information, the Cleveland Clinic offers these tips to prevent running injuries.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to rest, check your gear or see a doctor:
Joint pain: Pounding your feet on the pavement can do a number on your joints, particularly your knees and ankles. Arthritis and other chronic pain can also get inflamed with exercise. Be sure that you are icing and getting proper rest if you start to experience joint pain.
Persistent pain: It’s normal to experience some soreness after you start training. But if the pain doesn’t decrease after rest or begins as soon as you train again, there could be something wrong. If you have lasting discomfort or need pain medications to train, contact a doctor.
- Heart issues: Running is great for your cardiovascular health. But if you’re at risk, know how to spot the signs of serious trouble like a heart attack. If you experience chest pain or shortness of breath, put the workout on pause and get medical help right away.
Achieve your goals
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment you get from achieving a goal.
At Erie Insurance, your goals in life are important to us. Whether you’re training for a 5K, renovating your home, starting a family or changing direction in life… looking to the future means making a plan and having encouragement along the way.
When it comes to your financial goals, our local agents are here to help with insurance coverage that protects what you’ve worked so hard to build. By getting to know you, your local ERIE agent can make sure you have coverage that fits your life and budget.
Posted on 6 March 2019 | 9:00 pm