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What are the tax rules for a company car?

Navigating tax regulations for small business owners is often difficult.  On top of normal tax implications, those businesses that offer employees a company car deal with added complexities. Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or getting into business management for the first time, the thought of dealing with taxes on a company car might cause pause. But what if understanding these company car tax rules could be straightforward?

That’s exactly what we aim to offer you here at Paper Trails. We understand the headaches and fears that come with managing the finer details of payroll and HR, especially for small businesses. In this article, we’ll look at how taxes work on a company car, breaking down the essentials for you. You’ll learn about the company car tax rules, how to calculate taxable benefits, and what exceptions might apply to you.  Let’s get started.

Understanding company car tax rules

A company car is a vehicle provided by an employer primarily for business purposes and, occasionally, personal use. When it comes to taxes, the key term to understand is ‘personal use’. Although using a company car solely for business activities does not incur additional taxes, any personal use is considered a taxable fringe benefit. The IRS regards this personal use as part of your income, which requires making clear distinctions and maintaining accurate reporting to prevent unnecessary tax burdens.

Calculating personal use under company car tax rules

To help ensure compliance and fairness, the IRS provides several methods to accurately determine the taxable benefit from personal use of a company car. Each method offers a structured way to assess this benefit, tailored to different situations and vehicle types.

General Valuation Rule

This method calculates the fair market value (FMV) of personal use. It estimates what it would cost to lease a similar vehicle under comparable terms in the same geographic area. This is useful when it’s difficult to track individual mileage or when the vehicle involved does not have standard leasing conditions.  Let’s take a look at an example below:

Scenario: A company provides an employee with a car that, if leased under similar conditions in their geographic area, would cost $400 per month.


  • Assume the employee uses the car for personal purposes 50% of the time.
  • Fair Market Value (FMV) per month: $400
  • Personal use percentage: 50%
  • Taxable Benefit = $400 (FMV per month) × 50% (personal use) = $200 per month

Annual Taxable Benefit = $200 × 12 months = $2,400

Cents-Per-Mile Rule

If the personal and business uses of the vehicle are clearly separable and mileage can be accurately recorded, this rule is appropriate. To find the value of personal use, multiply the total personal miles driven by the IRS’s standard mileage rate, which is currently at 67 cents per mile for 2024. This rate is designed to cover operating costs like fuel, maintenance, and general wear and tear.  Here is an example:

Scenario: An employee drives the company car 12,000 miles in a year, with 6,000 of those miles being for personal use.


  • IRS standard mileage rate for 2024: 67 cents per mile
  • Total personal miles: 6,000 miles
  • Taxable Benefit = 6,000 miles × $0.67/mile = $4,020

Annual Taxable Benefit = $4,020

Lease Value Rule

This method works well when personal use of a vehicle follows a consistent pattern. It involves referencing the IRS’s Annual Lease Value Table, which provides a lease value based on the vehicle’s fair market value (FMV). First, determine the vehicle’s FMV when it’s first provided to the employee. Then, find the corresponding annual lease value on the IRS table and multiply this by the proportion of mileage used for personal purposes.  See below of an example of this method:

Scenario: The company car has an FMV of $25,000. According to the IRS Annual Lease Value Table, a car with this FMV has an annual lease value of $7,250.


  • Total miles driven in the year: 15,000 miles
  • Personal miles driven: 6,000 miles
  • Personal use percentage = (6,000 personal miles ÷ 15,000 total miles) × 100 = 40%
  • Annual Lease Value from IRS Table = $7,250
  • Taxable Benefit = $7,250 × 40% = $2,900

Annual Taxable Benefit = $2,900

These approaches allow for a fair assessment of taxable benefits based on the vehicle’s use and value, making it easier for employers to report accurately and for employees to understand their tax responsibilities. It’s important for employers to choose the most suitable valuation method for their specific circumstances and to keep detailed records to support their decision.

What about exceptions?

Not all personal use results in taxable income. The IRS provides exceptions for minimal or incidental personal use, such as:

  • De Minimis Fringe Benefits: Infrequent personal trips that are impractical to record. This category includes occasional use that would be unreasonable to monitor closely or account for due to its minimal nature, such as a short drive to a nearby restaurant for a business lunch.
  • Qualified Nonpersonal Use Vehicles: Work-specific vehicles like delivery trucks or ambulances that are unlikely to be used for personal purposes. These are vehicles designed primarily for job functions and not for personal transportation.
  • Demonstration Vehicles: Provided to full-time automobile salespeople under strict conditions. These vehicles are used by sales staff within the boundaries of dealership operations, strictly for promoting vehicle sales, without personal trips or overnight usage permitted.

How to handle reporting on taxes for company cars

Accurate reporting is crucial. The value of personal use should be included in the employee’s Form W-2 and reflected in the company’s payroll records. It’s important to maintain detailed records of mileage and use to substantiate the reported amounts.


Understanding company car tax rules doesn’t have to be difficult. With clear guidelines and the right support, you can navigate these headaches easily. At Paper Trails, we’re committed to helping small businesses manage their payroll and HR with confidence. Remember, getting it right not only helps you avoid penalties but also ensures that you and your employees are well-informed about your benefits and obligations. Ready to simplify your business management? Let Paper Trails lead the way.