How to Write Off a Car for Your Small Business

July 7, 2024
minutes to read
Michael Nuciforo
Table of Contents

As a small business owner in Australia, finding ways to maximise your tax deductions is crucial for maintaining financial health. One effective method is to write off a car used for business purposes. This process can provide significant tax savings, but it's important to understand how to do it correctly. In this post, I'll walk you through the steps to write off a vehicle for your business, share examples of tax savings, and show you how Thriday can simplify the process with automated asset and liability depreciation.

Deciding to write off a car for my small business was a significant decision that required careful consideration and understanding of the tax benefits. The process can seem daunting, but it becomes much more manageable with the proper knowledge and tools. In this post, I'll share insights on how to write off a business vehicle, including real-life examples, and how Thriday can help automate the process, ensuring accuracy and compliance with the ATO.

Understanding Vehicle Write-Offs

Writing off a vehicle for business purposes means deducting the cost of the car from your taxable income. This can significantly reduce your tax liability, freeing up funds for other business needs. The primary benefit of writing off a business vehicle is the tax savings, which can improve your overall cash flow.

Only some vehicles qualify for a business write-off. To be eligible, the vehicle must be used primarily for business purposes. This includes cars, utes, and vans integral to your business operations. For instance, if you're a tradesperson, a ute used for transporting tools and materials would qualify. It's essential to keep detailed records of your vehicle's usage to substantiate your claim with the ATO.

Depreciation of Business Vehicles

What is Depreciation?

Depreciation is the gradual reduction in the value of an asset over time. For business vehicles, depreciation allows you to spread the cost of the car over its useful life. This helps reduce taxable income each year and aligns the expense with the period in which the vehicle is used for business.

Depreciation Methods

The ATO allows two primary methods for calculating vehicle depreciation:

  1. Straight-Line Method: This method evenly spreads the cost of the vehicle over its useful life. For example, if your car has a useful life of five years, you would deduct 20% of the vehicle's cost each year.
  2. Diminishing Value Method: This method calculates depreciation based on the vehicle's remaining value each year, leading to higher deductions in the earlier years. This can be beneficial if you want to maximise your deductions sooner.

Choosing the correct method depends on your business needs and financial strategy.

Steps to Write Off a Business Vehicle

Determine the Business Use Percentage

First, calculate the percentage of the vehicle's use attributable to business activities. This requires keeping detailed records, such as a logbook, that tracks the kilometres driven for business versus personal use. For example, if your logbook shows that 70% of the vehicle's use is for business, you can write off 70% of the vehicle's depreciation.

Calculate Depreciation

Next, use the chosen depreciation method to calculate the annual depreciation expense. Here's an example using the straight-line method:

  • Vehicle cost: $30,000
  • Useful life: 5 years
  • Annual depreciation: $30,000 / 5 = $6,000

If the business use percentage is 70%, the deductible depreciation would be 70% of $6,000, which is $4,200 per year.

Record Keeping and Documentation

Maintaining accurate records is crucial for substantiating your write-off claim with the ATO. Keep all purchase receipts, finance agreements, and a detailed logbook of business use. These records will be essential if the ATO ever audits you.

Real-Life Example: Tax Savings from Writing Off a Business Vehicle

Let's look at an example to illustrate the tax savings from writing off a business vehicle. Sarah runs a small gardening business and decided to purchase a $40,000 ute, which she uses 80% of the time for her business.

  • Vehicle cost: $40,000
  • Business use percentage: 80%
  • Annual depreciation (straight-line method over five years): $40,000 / 5 = $8,000
  • Deductible depreciation: 80% of $8,000 = $6,400 per year

Over five years, Sarah can write off $32,000 of the vehicle's cost against her taxable income. Assuming a tax rate of 30%, this results in a total tax savings of $9,600.

This example highlights the significant tax savings achieved by correctly writing off a business vehicle.

Why It's Important to Write Off Your Work Vehicle

Writing off your work vehicle is vital for several reasons:

  • Tax Savings: It reduces your taxable income, leading to substantial tax savings.
  • Cash Flow Management: By spreading the cost of the vehicle over its useful life, you can better manage your business's cash flow.
  • Compliance: Properly writing off a car ensures compliance with ATO regulations, reducing the risk of penalties.

How Thriday Simplifies the Process

Automated Asset Depreciation

Thriday automates the calculation and tracking of asset depreciation, making it easy to manage your business vehicle write-offs. The software ensures that depreciation calculations are accurate and up-to-date, saving you time and reducing the risk of errors.

Seamless Integration with Bookkeeping

Thriday integrates asset depreciation with your overall bookkeeping system. This means that all financial information is centralised and easily accessible, simplifying the management of assets and liabilities.

Streamlined Tax Filing

With Thriday, tax filing becomes much more straightforward. The platform provides tools to help you prepare and lodge your tax return, ensuring that all write-offs are correctly included. This reduces the stress of tax season and ensures you remain compliant with ATO regulations.

Benefits of Using Thriday


Automating tax processes with Thriday saves valuable time that you can reinvest into growing your business. Instead of spending hours calculating depreciation and managing records, you can focus on core business activities.

Accuracy and Compliance

Thriday ensures that all calculations are accurate and compliant with ATO regulations. This reduces the risk of errors and potential penalties, giving you peace of mind.

Comprehensive Financial Management

Thriday offers a suite of tools for comprehensive financial management. These enhance overall financial health and efficiency, allowing you to make informed business decisions.

Key Takeaways

Writing off a car for your small business can provide significant tax benefits but requires careful planning and accurate record keeping. Understanding the process and using tools like Thriday can simplify the management of vehicle write-offs and ensure compliance with ATO regulations.

Thriday's automated asset and liability depreciation features make managing your business vehicle write-offs easy. Join Thriday for free today to streamline your accounting processes and focus on what truly matters—growing your business. Stay compliant, maximise your deductions, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with efficient financial management.

DISCLAIMER: Team Thrive Pty Ltd ABN 15 637 676 496 (Thriday) is an authorised representative (No.1297601) of Regional Australia Bank ABN 21 087 650 360 AFSL 241167 (Regional Australia Bank). Regional Australia Bank is the issuer of the transaction account and debit card available through Thriday. Any information provided by Thriday is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether Thriday is appropriate for you. Team Thrive No 2 Pty Ltd ABN 26 677 263 606 (Thriday Accounting) is a Registered Tax Agent (No.26262416).

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