Is there tax relief from the high cost of driving?

Canadian drivers are used to seeing gas prices rise each spring as the weather gets warmer and more people take to the road for day trips, weekends at the cottage, and annual holidays. This year, that trend is accelerated for several reasons. The first, of course, is that as pandemic restrictions ease and the economy opens up, there are more and more reasons to be on the road. As well, employees who have worked from home for the past 16 months are starting to return to the daily commute, either part-time or full-time. For many taxpayers, there’s no relief provided by our tax system to help alleviate the cost of driving to work and back home or the cost of driving that isn’t work-related. In both cases, such expenditures are considered a personal expense for which no deduction or credit can be claimed, no matter how great the cost. That said, there are some (fairly narrow) circumstances in which employees can claim a deduction for the cost of work-related travel.

Those circumstances exist where an employee is required, as part of his or her terms of employment, to use a personal vehicle for work-related travel. For instance, an employee might, as part of his or her job, be required to see clients at their own premises for the purpose of meetings or other work-related activities and be expected to use his or her own vehicle to get to such meetings. If the employer is prepared to certify on a Form T2200 that the employee was ordinarily required to work away from the employer’s place of business or in different places, that he or she is required to pay his or her own motor vehicle expenses (and was not reimbursed for such expenses by the employer) and that the employer did not provide a tax-free allowance to cover such expenses, the employee can deduct actual expenses incurred for such work-related travel. Those deductible expenses include the following: fuel (gasoline, propane, oil), maintenance and repairs, insurance, licence and registration fees, depreciation, in the form of capital cost allowance, eligible interest paid on a loan to buy the vehicle, and eligible leasing costs.

In almost all instances, a taxpayer will use the same vehicle for both personal and work-related driving. Where that’s the case, only the portion of expenses incurred for work-related driving can be deducted and the employee must keep a record of both the total kilometres driven and the kilometres driven for work-related purposes. And, of course, receipts must be kept to document all expenses incurred and claimed. While no limits (other than the general limit of reasonableness) are placed on the amount of costs which can be deducted in the first four categories listed above, there are limits and restrictions with respect to allowable deductions for interest, eligible leasing costs and depreciation claims. The rules governing those claims and the tax treatment of employee automobile allowances and available deductions for employment-related automobile use generally are outlined on the Canada Revenue Agency website at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns206-236/229/slry/mtrvhcl-eng.html.

In larger urban centres, and in the nearby cities and suburbs which are served by inter-city transit, many commuters utilize that transit as a way of avoiding both the stress of a drive to work in rush hour traffic and the associated costs. And, for a time, such commuters were able to claim a tax credit to help mitigate the cost of using such transit. Unfortunately, the federal public transit tax credit was eliminated in 2017 and has never been reinstated.

Given current gas prices, no amount of tax relief is going to make driving, especially for a lengthy daily commute, an inexpensive proposition. But, that said, seeking out and claiming every possible deduction and credit available under our tax rules can at least help to minimize the pain. If you would like more information or if you want someone to help you file your taxes, call us at (905) 305-9722 or email us at estefania@eigenmachtcrackower.com.

Top