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Taxman will love you logging on

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Keeping mileage log books up to date to include in tax returns at the end of the tax year is a frustrating and menial task for most. Books get lost, logs aren’t updated and accuracy is a little lacking. SEAN BACHER tries the TripTrack mileage logger and realises that keeping accurate logs is now as easy as plugging a device into a car’s cigarette lighter adapter.

It’s that time of the year again, a time many of us loathe, but a time that none of us can avoid. Yes, I am talking about the end of the tax year for provisional taxpayers. A time to get all expenditures and mileage logs in order to file a tax assessment in the hope of receiving some sort of mercy from the South African Revenue Services (SARS).

For a select few, finding these logs and receipts won’t be a problem, as everything will be neatly filed and catalogued according to business and private use. The rest will be crazily scrambling around scratching for anything that vaguely resembles a receipt and will be jiggling logbooks to match odometer readings.

Although there is nothing much you can do to make sense of this year’s tax mess, there is a gadget that will keep your mileage logs up to date and dead accurate for the upcoming year. It’s called TripTrack, and it’s a neat little gizmo that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter adaptor and records every kilometer you drive.

We put it through the Gadget 5 Question User test to see just how helpful it will be for your next mileage log for SARS.

1 Is it ready to use?

The TripTrack GPS logger is ready to use the moment it comes out of the box. Just plug it into your cigarette lighter adapter before you start driving and it will begin logging your mileage.

However, this is just one part of the solution. To gain the full benefit of TripTrack, you need to install the included software on your computer, download the latest version of TipTrack and register both the device and the software.

During the registration process, you will be asked to also register your car by entering the make and model, number plate and mileage at the time of installation. The software also let you add more cars at a later stage.

2 Is it easy to use?

TipTrack’s user interface is very neatly laid out. The commands are well-labelled and self-explanatory. Never having used the device or the software before, I found it quite easy to get statistics of my past few trips, including distance travelled, time taken, speeds and ‚ the best part ‚ actual address details of where I had come and gone.

Besides the basic reports that come with the TripTrack, you are able to build your own reports. These can include most frequent routes logged, most frequent addresses visited and filters can be added according to dates and times.

TripTrack can be set up to remind you automatically at certain dates to download the logged data off the GPS logger. Doing this is also relatively easy. Plug it into a free USB port and hit the import button ‚ simple as that.

Once complete, all data is saved to a database, and your total mileage is tallied along with your time, speeds and locations. Should you need any of this data, you can easily export everything into a neatly laid-out Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. In fact, if you do an export for an entire tax year, you wouldn’t need to change much before printing it out for SARS. Every kilometer is accounted for and labelled as business or private.

3 Does it deliver on its promise?

Until I started using the TripTracker, I carried a book and pencil in my glove compartment to record my mileage. Needless to say, I would skip a few entries and then try and make them up when next I remembered to log where I was going.

The entire process was a total disaster from the word go, with me making up logs in an effort to try and get my log book’s total mileage to match that of my car (Editor-in-chief’s note to SARS: no, we don’t know where he lives). With the TripTrack though, everything is accurate to the last kilometer. You just plug it onto your car and forget about it until you next get a reminder from TripTrack to download and consolidate your logs.

Apart from logging your mileage, the TripTrack allows you to add expenses to a certain trip ‚ a nifty feature, as business expenses are tax refundable ‚ so when you export your logs, your expenses will be included. I found the service interval feature rather useful too. Although my car does tell me when it is due for its next service, sitting in front of my computer and viewing how many more kilometers I have to go before the service is somehow gratifying.

4 Is it innovative?

Most new cars come with some kind of a mileage logger that lets you know how far you have driven, when you next need to get petrol or when you need your next service. Your average GPS comes with similar functions, but most are there to just give you directions ‚ your average speed and distance traveled is more for your information than serving a practical purpose.

Although the idea of logging data from satellites is not at all innovative, the ease with which the TripTrack lets you use all this data is certainly novel. Not only does it serve a very important purpose at the end of a financial year, but it also helps you keep tabs on your mileage.

Once you are in TripTrack, you can also view where your car is in real-time, much like many tracking devices. Although I have used this, I saw it more as a gimmick than anything else. However, I do see its utility. For instance, when a company phones one of its truck drivers to find out where he is, and is told he is on the road, driving back, when in reality the truck is parked outside a local pub. Or if a family member or even friend is using your car and you want to keep tabs.

5 Is it value for money?

The premium package retails for R2 000 and the light version R1 000. I thought the product would be a little cheaper, as there is not too much technology involved. Although the initial outlay is rather substantial, the return on investment (ROI) will be huge at the end of the year. There will be no discrepancies with your log books, so nothing for the tax man to argue about.

This ROI will be especially beneficial to fleet management companies. According to TripTrack, the device can be installed anywhere on a vehicle, so it can be hidden, as long as an additional power outlet is installed at the same time. This, adding multiple vehicles to the databases, and plotting the routes on maps, means you can see exactly where you cars and trucks are going to every day, and how long they are spending at these destinations.

In conclusion

Since using TripTrack, I have yet to have a kilometer unaccounted. My old paper-based logbook is sitting in a landfill somewhere.

I would recommend it to anyone who owns a car. Furthermore, I believe this solution is a must for anyone who wants to keep a fleet under control.

– Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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