Here Is What I Am Thinking To Do About Per Diem, Income Taxes And A CPA As A Driver.

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ravenswood_65's Comment
member avatar

You guys, please stop abbreviating it as "PD" or none of this will ever show up when people search for "per diem" in the search box.

And at this point this subject has been twisted and beaten and confused to death. It's really very simple. You either pay more in taxes each week and get a big return at the end of the year, or you pay less in taxes each week and get less back at the end of the year. That's it. In the end, the difference in net income, if there is any, is negligible.

Everyone is way overanalyzing this simple and relatively unimportant topic. There are far bigger fish to fry.

I would much rather see people analyzing ways to make more money on the road. I couldn't begin to count how many times over the years I was able to make several hundred dollars more per week than many of my peers because I learned all the tricks for maximizing my time management skills, I learned how to make sure I was given the maximum number of miles I could run each week, and I learned how to push my schedule forward with faster loading times and early pickups and deliveries.

If you're not turning 12,000+ miles per month then you're wasting your time worrying about per diem or 401k or any of that because you're losing far more money being unproductive than you could ever dream of saving going OCD on your taxes and retirement strategies.

Spend your time learning how to maximize your pay. Optimize your time management skills. Nurture better relationships with important people at your company. Squeeze every possible minute of time out of your logbook. Ask your company about better opportunities within special divisions reserved only for experienced, proven drivers. And of course never be late with any appointment times.

A top tier driver will turn about 12,000 miles per month. A really good driver will turn 11,000. At 45 cpm that's a difference of $5,400 dollars per year. I know for a fact I was making $10,000 per year more than many drivers with the same experience level and same pay rate because I simply out-hustled them, I was more savvy in my time management skills, and I had better relationships with important people at my company. Same experience, same pay rate, very different results.

It's nice to be able to out-hustle the competition, but be careful not to burn yourself out in this business. Try to find your comfort zone as a driver. Actually, money is not everything. Do the most work you can actually handle. Don't bite off more than you can chew. The extra pay may not always be worth the extra heartburn and ulcers.

As a confirmed bachelor, I have no wife and children to support. It's just me and a couple of hounds.

Logbook:

A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

Per Diem:

Getting paid per diem means getting a portion of your salary paid to you without taxes taken out. It's technically classified as a meal and expense reimbursement.

Truck drivers and others who travel for a living get large tax deductions for meal expenses. The Government set up per diem pay as a way to reimburse some of the taxes you pay with each paycheck instead of making you wait until tax filing season.

Getting per diem pay means a driver will get a larger paycheck each week but a smaller tax return at tax time.

We have a ton of information on our wiki page on per diem pay

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Lincoln said a penny saved is a penny earned.

Yeah, but people with real wealth will tell you that you'll never save your way to prosperity. A penny saved is a penny earned but a dollar earned is 100 times better than a penny saved.

And I don't know if you're working right now or not, but every week you're not driving a truck is costing you about $1,000.

Not many are clever enough to PRUDENTLY manage the finances of this business well without professional guidance

You do realize truck drivers make like $50k per year, not $5 million, right? The finances are not complex at all. It's incredibly simple in fact. I mean, you can get as OCD as you'd like to get with it but it's not going to get you anywhere. It's called over-optimization. You're worrying about little details too much.

The hard part about this industry is learning to maximize your revenues. You must learn fantastic time management skills, build solid relationships with important people at your company, stay motivated enough to perform at the highest level consistently, and stay with a company long enough to earn the best miles and work your way into more elite divisions.

Until you learn how to maximize your revenue production in this industry you're going to lose many thousands of dollars every year in pay. No amount of OCD over tax strategies and retirement planning is going to make up for even 10% of your losses.

ravenswood_65's Comment
member avatar

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Unless a driver ops OUT of PD if that is even an option.

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You CAN TAKE THE DEDUCTION ON YOUR TAX RETURN - even if you "op out" of PD (if it is not mandatory at the company you work for)

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So, if I were to opt out of PD, I would NOT be able to write off on-the-job restaurant meal costs on my tax returns?

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YES YOU CAN - at the STANDARD RATE.

With the assistance of Taxman - here's what we figured out regarding PD.

As a "Transportation Worker" - the IRS has a "Standard Per Diem Deduction For Transportation Workers".

This deduction can ONLY BE TAKEN if you ITEMIZE. It is $63 per day - but the ACTUAL DEDUCTION is 80% of that $63 per day (or $50.40). You DO NOT KEEP MEAL RECEIPTS - you take the STANDARD TW DEDUCTION.

If you are getting paid PER DIEM - that PD payment is 100% Tax Free. You would calculate the $63 per day X how many days you were out. SUBTRACT the TOTAL AMOUNT OF PD PAYMENTS, then 80% of the REMAINDER (the $63 per day MINUS PD payments) would be your deduction.

The ADVANCE PD PAYMENTS are already taken out of your GROSS W-2 WAGES (deducted). This amount is UNTAXED @ $100%, the $63 per day is untaxed @ 80%.

YOU MUST HAVE A VERIFIABLE HOME to take the PD DEDUCTION on your taxes. You DO NOT NEED A HOME to get PD Pay - only to ITEMIZE and get the rest of the PD deduction that is not ALREADY COVERED in PD payments from your company.

You DO NEED to keep receipts for any other legitimate deductible expenses.

Rick

I will always have some home of record if I were to become a driver. It could be just a room share.

Per Diem:

Getting paid per diem means getting a portion of your salary paid to you without taxes taken out. It's technically classified as a meal and expense reimbursement.

Truck drivers and others who travel for a living get large tax deductions for meal expenses. The Government set up per diem pay as a way to reimburse some of the taxes you pay with each paycheck instead of making you wait until tax filing season.

Getting per diem pay means a driver will get a larger paycheck each week but a smaller tax return at tax time.

We have a ton of information on our wiki page on per diem pay

ravenswood_65's Comment
member avatar

double-quotes-start.png

Lincoln said a penny saved is a penny earned.

double-quotes-end.png

Yeah, but people with real wealth will tell you that you'll never save your way to prosperity. A penny saved is a penny earned but a dollar earned is 100 times better than a penny saved.

And I don't know if you're working right now or not, but every week you're not driving a truck is costing you about $1,000.

double-quotes-start.png

Not many are clever enough to PRUDENTLY manage the finances of this business well without professional guidance

double-quotes-end.png

You do realize truck drivers make like $50k per year, not $5 million, right? The finances are not complex at all. It's incredibly simple in fact. I mean, you can get as OCD as you'd like to get with it but it's not going to get you anywhere. It's called over-optimization. You're worrying about little details too much.

The hard part about this industry is learning to maximize your revenues. You must learn fantastic time management skills, build solid relationships with important people at your company, stay motivated enough to perform at the highest level consistently, and stay with a company long enough to earn the best miles and work your way into more elite divisions.

Until you learn how to maximize your revenue production in this industry you're going to lose many thousands of dollars every year in pay. No amount of OCD over tax strategies and retirement planning is going to make up for even 10% of your losses.

Yes, sir. Do the best you can do as your body, mind, health and spirit will allow. That's all any man can do. Some folks have more energy than others. 12,000+ miles might be a little trying for a person 50+, but if that person can do it, more power to him.

I think more experience people in this field will cleverly learn how to work smart and not just work hard.

No, I am not working now, FYI. I am currently on VA disability pay. Driving is a possibility for my near future, say about a year away.

My home state's voc/rehab agency may or may not approve of driving for me. They may or may not support it financially as CDL school tuition. I would rather be trained by an independent school than by the hiring company. I am still waiting to hear a response from voc/rehab from a letter I mailed them over a week ago.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
Old School's Comment
member avatar

Brett is dead on, and unknowingly I was just making the same point in another related thread. We have some financial experts in here trying to break the most minimal things down for us in here right now, and it is laughable because they don't have a clue about how you make it in this business. If you think it boils down to managing the benefits just right, and getting your taxes done just right, you guys are missing the big picture. Wealth always comes from what you can earn, not what you can finagle out of Uncle Sam at Tax time, at least not when we are talking about blue collar wages.

Top performers make out like bandits in this business, and there are precious few of them out here. That is were you guys need to be focused.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Taxman's Comment
member avatar

If you think it boils down to managing the benefits just right, and getting your taxes done just right, you guys are missing the big picture.

OTOH, if you just ignore that part, you're leaving money on the table for no good reason. Taking a few hours on a day off to figure out how the system works and set your benefits and pay structure up to optimize it doesn't have to interfere with becoming the top driver in your company. In some ways it's a moving target, but mostly it's a 'set it and forget it' deal. It's not like anybody here doesn't have free time, the fact that we're hanging out on an internet discussion forum means we've got time to waste.

Now, if I tell a recruiter "hey, I'm going to make less than $24k working for you this year, and I need to maximize my 401k contribution, so I need to be in the 401k from day one and I don't want any silly 50% or 75% limitations on my elective deferrals", that might get in the way of me ever being hired, let alone becoming a top driver there. Or it might help me find that one company that's incredibly flexible in areas that I want that flexibility.

Rick S.'s Comment
member avatar

Brett is dead on, and unknowingly I was just making the same point in another related thread. We have some financial experts in here trying to break the most minimal things down for us in here right now, and it is laughable because they don't have a clue about how you make it in this business. If you think it boils down to managing the benefits just right, and getting your taxes done just right, you guys are missing the big picture. Wealth always comes from what you can earn, not what you can finagle out of Uncle Sam at Tax time, at least not when we are talking about blue collar wages.

Top performers make out like bandits in this business, and there are precious few of them out here. That is were you guys need to be focused.

I'm pretty sure myself and Taxman, weren't trying to divert from the importance of how to become a top earner in this field, or obfuscating "the big picture". I got some "gaps filled" in my knowlege of how Per Diem and the deduction works here recently (thanks Taxman). As well as running some test numbers to see what the actual difference is (in a payroll program and on a CPA's tax software).

Yeah - Per Diem is "nickels & dimes", when it comes to the "big picture". Many of the newcomers are younger, without families, mortgages and other tax/financial considerations - where how Per Diem works can have a larger effect on their "bottom line".

Aside from the "principal of the matter" - where companies act like they're "doing the driver a favor", when in fact - they are doing themselves 10X the favor - it's still just numbers, and not really huge ones either.

For most folks that are used to pulling down sub-$20K - $40-50K seems like big $$. For those of us that are used to grossing 6 figures - it's a pay cut, that has it's rewards in the satisfaction of getting out of our particular "rat race", and doing something that might be more "soul satisfying". I HATE what I do now - the only thing that keeps me in it, is the $$. When that hate overrides what the $$ brings me (and it's been teetering there for years now), I'll be headed to an orientation somewhere - once I get the "numerous other ducks" I have in a row.

Rick

Per Diem:

Getting paid per diem means getting a portion of your salary paid to you without taxes taken out. It's technically classified as a meal and expense reimbursement.

Truck drivers and others who travel for a living get large tax deductions for meal expenses. The Government set up per diem pay as a way to reimburse some of the taxes you pay with each paycheck instead of making you wait until tax filing season.

Getting per diem pay means a driver will get a larger paycheck each week but a smaller tax return at tax time.

We have a ton of information on our wiki page on per diem pay

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar
Or it might help me find that one company that's incredibly flexible in areas that I want that flexibility.

Basically that is the crux of my issue with what you are going on about. You somehow have the impression that there's this golden nugget out there, but the only way you'll find it is with your research. The Truth is "put your boots on and get to work." That golden nugget was right before your eyes the whole time. You couldn't see it because you were focused in all the wrong places. I have no doubt you'll figure it out, and you may even figure out this ain't the gig for you.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Taxman...the greatest flexibility comes from working at the same carrier for years. Proven performance and a safe driving record is rewarded with top pay and greater flexibility. Something that is earned over time, not overnight.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

We're not saying to ignore it, but we're saying that trying to optimize your investment or tax strategies or pouring over spreadsheets comparing companies when you're only making $40,000 - $50,000 per year and barely have any money left over (if any) after living expenses anyhow isn't going to do much for you. I mean, you're talking a difference of a few hundred dollars a year maybe.

If I can talk a customer into unloading me a day early, or I can talk dispatch into giving me a better run, or I know where to find an empty trailer when the other drivers don't, I can put an extra $250 in my pocket just like that. Now do that just two or three times a month and you can easily see how your income can rise $10,000 in a year by optimizing your time management strategies, learning how to overcome challenges, and developing better relationships within your company.

How much are you going to net in a year by tweaking your per diem settings? I'll tell you how much.....you would actually increase your net savings more by not putting mayonnaise on any of your sandwiches that year than you would worrying about per diem. That's how much.

Perhaps, a financial adviser or CPA can best advise me as to whether take per diem or not.

A CPA or financial advisor for an employee making $50,000 per year is just overkill. It's going to cost you ten times the amount of money you could possibly save with the strategies they'll give you, and then they're going to talk you into sticking with them long term so they can collect fees year after year, negating any benefit you thought you were getting anyhow.

Again, I'm not saying people should completely ignore this stuff. But it really isn't worth worrying much about per diem settings or tax strategies when you're a regular employee in a relatively low tax bracket. There just isn't much there to be gained. The big gains come from learning all of the tricks that the veteran drivers use to get more miles and get the job done at the highest level consistently.

Here's some examples.....if you get overweight tickets, or you have to push a delivery back a day because you had to return to the shipper to have them reload the cargo properly, or if you fail to understand even one or two of the logbook rules or strategies it can cost you hundreds of dollars in a week, and thousands of dollars in a year.

So of all of the people here discussing tax strategies and spending weeks or months making spreadsheets to evaluate companies, how many of you have completed both the Weight and Balance section and the Logbook Rules section of our High Road Training Program? And that's rhetorical, you know who you are.

People that are new to this industry tend to obsess about the wrong things. A good rule of thumb is this - if you haven't figured out how to consistently turn 3,000 miles per week with your carrier then you shouldn't be wasting your time worrying about per diem or spreadsheets or any of it. You're losing way, way more money by being unproductive than you could ever dream of saving with tax strategies or picking just the perfect company.

Spend your time learning strategies from the veterans, improving your skills as a driver, developing better time management strategies, and developing solid relationships with the office personnel. Once you've done all of that then you can play around with the little stuff, cuz that's all the rest of that is when compared with the gains you can make by maximizing your abilities and knowledge.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Logbook:

A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Per Diem:

Getting paid per diem means getting a portion of your salary paid to you without taxes taken out. It's technically classified as a meal and expense reimbursement.

Truck drivers and others who travel for a living get large tax deductions for meal expenses. The Government set up per diem pay as a way to reimburse some of the taxes you pay with each paycheck instead of making you wait until tax filing season.

Getting per diem pay means a driver will get a larger paycheck each week but a smaller tax return at tax time.

We have a ton of information on our wiki page on per diem pay

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

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