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Taxman cometh – for your logbook

It is just about that time of the year again. Time for you to get your tax receipts and business log books ready for SARS, in the hope of getting some sort of a rebate. Sometimes finding all of this information can be quite a task. However, with an electronic logbook things can be a lot easier ‚ you just need to choose one that suits you.

Tax payers who qualify for car allowances should have kept a logbook of their business trips with all the relevant information for the current tax year to qualify for a rebate. Whether they fulfilled SARS’s requirements will only be established over the next few months as the tax year is wrapped up.

‚Keeping a SARS compliant travel logbook need not be an onerous task,‚ says Steven Schmutz, founder of tripTrack logbook systems. ‚Electronic logbook devices have become more sophisticated and many are now available on the market. Choose a logbook system with the right features and you can easily record your travel in minimal time.‚

For starters, ensure your logbook system is SARS compliant, advises Schmutz. SARS requires vehicle logbooks to provide each trip’s opening and closing odometer readings, distance travelled, the split between private and business kilometres, the driver’s name, the purpose of the trip and fuel and maintenance costs. The logbook supplier should be able to confirm that SARS accepts its software reports.

The logbook system you choose should also be user-friendly. After all, the software determines whether you spend 15 minutes a week to download data or multiple hours to do the same task with a user-unfriendly system.

‚A core function of any logbook system is to record a day’s journeys,‚ says Schmutz. ‚It should be able to accurately divide each day’s travels into individual trips, determine whether trips are business or private and allocate the kilometres travelled to destinations defined on the system.‚

In addition, it should be able to recognise that stops, such as those at traffic lights or due to construction delays, do not signal the end of a trip. It should also not base the start and end of trips on whether the vehicle engine is running so, allowing for refuelling en route, for instance.

‚To view your trips, a logbook system should offer a competent mapping system,‚ says Schmutz. Some systems use a web-based mapping option like Google Maps, which requires you to log onto the internet and use significant bandwidth to view your trips.

A current point of contention is that logbook systems using Google Maps without permission may be doing so illegally, he says. If these manufacturers are prevented from using Google Maps at some stage, users of those logbook systems will be potentially stranded without this important functionality.

‚The far better solution is a logbook system with built-in maps,‚ suggests Schmutz. ‚This feature may come at additional cost, but the functionality is ultimately worth it.‚

You should be able to create user-defined locations ‚ which include your frequent destinations ‚ and your logbook system should automatically indicate these places by name on reports. ‚This user-friendly aspect will reduce the time needed to keep your logbook updated,‚ he says.

To analyse travel details and view the information in graphic format, you should be able to export the data to programmes such as Excel. In this way you can determine facts, make comparisons and identify trends to improve efficiencies.

Another important consideration is flexibility. He explains, ‚As your needs change ‚ or your fleet grows ‚ be sure you can easily add new vehicles to your logbook system whilst keeping existing records intact. Likewise, you should be able to upgrade your computer’s software or transfer your logbook information to another computer without data loss.‚

Finally, check the warranty period. ‚The average warranty on logbook systems is one year,‚ says Schmutz. ‚The longer the warranty, the more confident a manufacturer is about its product and the potentially longer the logbook system will last.‚

To financially benefit in the upcoming tax year with minimal additional effort, ensure you choose a quality logbook system. The tax rebate may be well worth it.

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