Best Ways for Owner-Operators to Save Money On Taxes

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Written by Mike Skliar

Dealing with tax duties can be difficult for a truck driver, but there are big savings opportunities if they have the correct information and strategies. To help owner-operators keep more of their hard-earned money, we explore tips for truck owners that will improve their tax situations. We’ll look at practical strategies to assist owner-operators in reducing tax obligations while optimizing their financial health, from utilizing credits and deductions to comprehending depreciation and budgeting expenditures.

Regardless of your level of experience as an independent driver or where you are in your path, our goal is to provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the intricate world of truck driver tax.

Types of Taxes

Owner-operators face a variety of taxes, each of which has a unique effect on their financial situation. First and foremost, they have to deal with income taxes, which are imposed on their trucking operations earnings and are liable to federal, state, and possibly local taxes. Next, self-employment taxes are a significant burden. These taxes include Social Security and Medicare contributions, which are normally deducted from the paychecks of regular employees but are solely the obligation of self-employed individuals. 

Owner-operators must take these taxes, often referred to as SECA taxes, very seriously because they pay for both the employer and employee portions of Social Security and Medicare. Maintaining financial stability and compliance in the trucking sector requires an understanding of and ability to manage these tax obligations.

Federal and State Income Taxes

Federal and state income taxes represent the primary source of revenue for governmental operations at both the national and state levels. The US government imposes federal income taxes on income made by people who live under its jurisdiction. Federal income taxes are collected and enforced by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), with rates determined by the filing status and income levels of the taxpayers. State income taxes, whose rates and policies differ greatly throughout states, are similarly imposed by individual states on income earned inside their borders. Public safety, infrastructure, and education are just a few of the programs and services that the state covers mostly through these taxes.

Self Employment Tax

Self-employment tax is a mandatory contribution required from individuals who work for themselves and are not considered employees of a company. SECA tax (Self-Employment Contributions Act tax) includes the employer-paid and employee-paid components of Medicare and Social Security taxes that are normally deducted from a regular employee’s salary. Self-employed people, including owner-operators, freelancers, and sole proprietors, are in charge of paying the employee and employer portions of these taxes, which support benefits like healthcare and retirement. 

Self-employment tax, which is determined by net profits from self-employment, is a crucial factor for independent contractors and business owners to take into account since it covers a sizeable amount of their tax obligations and demands meticulous planning and compliance.

How Your Taxes Are Calculated

Several key factors in the taxing process determine owner-operators’ tax liabilities. The first figure is gross income, which is the total amount of money made from trucking operations before any costs are subtracted. Costs like fuel, maintenance, insurance, and depreciation are deducted from this amount to determine the net profit or the owner-operator’s taxable income. 

It’s important to remember that not all costs are tax deductible, and accurate record-keeping is a must. Once the net profit has been established, it is used as the foundation for determining the truck owner’s taxable income, deducting any extra sources of income.

How to Use Deductions to Save Money

Owner-operators have a powerful tool at their disposal to save money on taxes through strategic deductions recognized by the IRS. Owner-operators can decrease their taxable income and, hence, pay less in taxes by keeping precise records of all company expenses, such as fuel, maintenance, insurance, and other operational costs. Further maximizing tax savings can be achieved through the use of deductions for lodging and meals paid when traveling, such as the trucker per diem.

Owner-operators may also qualify for a number of tax advantages, such as the child tax credit, which immediately and dollar-for-dollar lowers their tax obligation. By skillfully utilizing these credits and deductions, truckers can optimize their tax savings and leave a larger portion of their hard-earned income for their families and future projects.


Depreciation in taxation refers to the gradual decrease in the value of assets over time, reflecting wear and tear, obsolescence, or other factors. Depreciation allows owner-operators to recover the cost of their business assets, such as trucks and equipment, over their useful lives through a tax deduction.

In other words, owner-operators can lower their tax burden by deducting a percentage of the equipment’s depreciated value from their taxable income each year. By using depreciation to offset the costs of purchasing and maintaining necessary equipment, owner-operators can improve their overall financial situation and profitability.

Do Owner-Operators Pay Less Taxes Than Company Drivers?

Owner-operators can pay less in taxes than company drivers depending on a number of factors, such as their specific circumstances, their tax filing methods, and the particular deductions they are entitled to. One benefit for owner-operators, as mentioned before, is that they can write off a variety of business costs associated with their trucking operations, including depreciation, insurance, fuel, and maintenance. They might also be eligible for other deductions, such as the trucker per diem, which covers lodging and meals while the driver is on the road.

Owner-operators must additionally pay self-employment taxes, which include Medicare and Social Security taxes for both the employer and the employee. Company drivers’ employers deduct taxes from their paychecks, including income taxes and their portion of Medicare and Social Security taxes. Company drivers do not have to worry about self-employment taxes, even if they could have fewer deductions available to them. In the end, depending on individual circumstances, the tax status for company drivers versus owner-operators can differ dramatically. Therefore, in order to decide the most advantageous tax methods, each must carefully analyze their unique circumstances and speak with tax professionals.

Myths About Taxes

Many misconceptions regarding taxes can cause confusion and costly mistakes for taxpayers. In this list, we uncover common myths that may affect financial decisions and shed some light on the truths about tax obligations. By debunking these myths, taxpayers can maximize their financial health and ensure that they comply with tax rules by navigating the tax landscape with clarity and confidence.

  1. Tax refunds are free money. Although they are essentially a return of your own money that you overpaid in taxes over the course of the year, many people mistake them for additional income or a windfall.
  2. Paying taxes is optional if you earn below a certain threshold. Everyone has to report their income to the IRS, even if there are income levels below which they might not be subject to federal income tax. If you don’t, there may be fines or legal consequences.
  3. You can’t be audited if you file your taxes electronically, but you remain subject to audits. Similar to paper returns, the IRS can still choose to audit electronically submitted returns.
  4. Filing taxes early guarantees a faster refund. Although filing early may speed up the processing of your return, it does not ensure a quicker refund. The time it takes for the IRS to process your return, the complexity of your return, and any mistakes or inconsistencies can all have an impact on when you get your refund.
  5. The IRS audits all tax deductions. While the IRS might examine some deductions more closely than others, not all deductions will inevitably result in an audit. Making valid deduction claims backed up by the appropriate paperwork is encouraged and allowed.
  6. If you work in cash, you don’t have to report your income to the IRS. Cash earnings and all other forms of income must be reported to the IRS. Tax evasion is the failure to register cash income, which bears severe consequences.
  7. Moving to a state with no income tax automatically saves you money. While living in a state with no income tax can result in lower state tax liabilities, it’s essential to consider other factors, such as cost of living, property taxes, and sales taxes which may offset potential savings.
  8. Hiring a tax professional guarantees a larger refund. Tax experts can assist you in maximizing your credits and deductions, but they are unable to miraculously raise your refund over what is allowed by law.
  9. You can’t owe taxes if you don’t receive a tax bill. It is the taxpayer’s responsibility to make sure they pay the correct taxes all year long. Failure to do so can result in owing taxes, regardless of whether you receive a bill from the IRS.
  10. You don’t have to report income earned from side gigs or freelancing. The IRS must be notified of all income, including money received from freelance work and side gigs. Penalties might be imposed if this income is not reported; this is considered as tax evasion.

In order to maximize their financial well-being, owner-operators must efficiently manage their tax obligations. Owner-operators can reduce their tax obligations and keep more of their hard-earned money by putting the tactics discussed in this article into practice, such as taking advantage of deductions, comprehending depreciation, and keeping up to date on available credits. Owner-operators can successfully negotiate the complexity of taxation with careful preparation and attention to detail, leading to increased financial stability and success in their trucking company.

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Author Mike Skliar

As the truck driver recruiting agency's CEO, I deeply understand the unique challenges and demands truck drivers face.

Drawing from my extensive work experience, I bring knowledge in truck driver recruitment, logistics, and transportation management. I possess a comprehensive understanding of industry regulations, safety standards, and best practices, ensuring that the agency adheres to the highest standards of professionalism and compliance.

Now, looking back and remembering my path from the very beginning, it seems to me that this story is a lifetime. During all these years of development and growth of our agency, I took part in no less interesting projects in which my experience, knowledge and vision were needed. And I was also able to gain new skills, contacts and experience by participating in the development of these projects from various fields, such as cargo transportation, trucking companies, e-commerce, parcel delivery and much more! But the best is yet to come!

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