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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

IFTA Filing Do's & Don'ts: Part 2 Avoiding an Audit


With just 4 days left to file 4th Quarter IFTA returns, it’s crunch time. Right about now, all of the IFTA procrastinators out there are starting to panic and hastily fill in their returns. (No judgement, truckers have way too much on their plates!)

If you happen to fall into this category, then slooooow doooown. The last thing you want is to quickly fill in your return and submit it with the mistakes below, all of which are red flags for IFTA auditors.

As it is, each IFTA jurisdiction is required to audit 3% of its registrants each year, and if you commit one or more of these IFTA sins, you’re greatly increasing your chances of becoming part of that dreaded 3%.

Before you make a mistake that could cost you your business, take a few seconds to make sure you’re avoiding these IFTA errors.


Avoiding IFTA Audits

  • DO: Make sure your trip sheets have continuity from the trip’s starting location to the destination. Every jurisdiction between the start and end points should be included.
  • DON’T: Submit a trip sheet with non-continuous jurisdictions. Unfortunately, your truck cannot teleport from New Jersey to Ohio, and IFTA auditors know it.

  • DO: Record all personal and non-taxable mileage. 
  • DON’T: Forget that your end-of-day miles to a restaurant or lodging still need to be recorded. If you don’t, then your end of day location won’t match your beginning of day location, which is known as a gap in mileage.

  • DO: Record your exact fuel use and milage. Then use these numbers to calculate your MPG each quarter.
  • DON’T: Do the reverse, which is to calculate your fuel use by dividing your mileage by a set MPG. This is cheating! For one, your MPG will fluctuate naturally based on road conditions and an infinite number of other variables, so you cannot assume it will always be the same. These kinds of over-simplified fuel calculations are huge red flags to IFTA auditors.

  • DO: Keep an eye on your MPG. If your MPG changes drastically from quarter to quarter, there needs to be a reason, like a change in your vehicle, your operations, or your load type & weight. 
  • DON’T: Submit a return with a MPG below 5 or above 10. If your MPG is outside this range, there is likely an error in your recordkeeping or calculations. IFTA auditors know this, which is why many states won’t accept your return until your MPG falls in this range.

  • DO: Follow the tips for recordkeeping that we covered in Part 1. Keeping precise trip sheets will help you avoid all of the above errors.
  • DON’T: Get lazy with your documentation. Your business depends on complying with IFTA filing requirements, so use a program like TruckLogics to keep your trip sheets organized and up-to-date everyday.

  • DO: Be proactive and file on-time. The best way to do this is by using a program like ExpressIFTA which calculates the taxes and fills in the return for you. 
  • DON’T: Wait until the last minute and then rush to fill in your return the night before. Obviously, this leads to mistakes, which lead to audits. If you’re that pressed for time, have a processing service like Truck Services of North America file your quarterly IFTA return. They prepare your return based on your trip sheets, and then submit it directly to your base jurisdiction. And since they’re IFTA Pro’s, they know to avoid all of the red flags above.

  • DO: Remain calm & cooperate if you are selected for audit. Original documentation for the past 12 quarters should be kept in your base jurisdiction for the auditor to access.
  • DON’T: Avoid the auditor’s phone calls, shred your documents, or flee to Costa Rica. The 4-year retention requirement for documentation will be extended indefinitely until you cooperate. This means that legally they can keep coming after you with no statute of limitations. And the less you cooperate, the more likely you’ll face steep penalties, or worse, revocation of your IFTA license. 
Ready to get started? Whether you need help creating an ExpressIFTA account, or you have questions about having a processing service prepare your return for you, call us and we can give you advice or connect you to someone you can trust.

We’re available 8-6 pm EST at 704.234.6005 or on live chat. Or for 24/7 assistance, just email us at support@expresstrucktax.com. With the deadline looming so close, it’s nice to know that you can reach out for help at all hours of the night. When crisis strikes, the Support Team will be ready for you!

Ready for More? Check out Part 1, chock-full of Tips for IFTA Recordkeeping!

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