Filing IFTA fuel taxes is all about keeping accurate records. Do you have all your fuel receipts? Do your drivers’ trip sheets cover every mile for all distance traveled? Do you know how many miles were driven in each state or province? And it’s not just about data collection: You also have to hang onto all those records for at least four years.
IFTA taxes are due every quarter, and if you do any business outside your home state or province, you’re likely required to file IFTA returns. Having a system in place that lets you collect all that info easily goes a long way in making sure you don’t miss a deadline. That’s important, because missing deadlines is a big red flag for auditors.
It’s a lot of paperwork, so a pretty common question is, "Can I use my GPS to file IFTA returns?"
The answer: Maybe.
Which GPS Devices Are "IFTA-Approved"?
Some GPS manufacturers claim that their devices are “IFTA-approved," but there's really no such thing as an IFTA-approved GPS. If you're unlucky enough to get audited, the auditors probably won't accept info from the IFTA software that came with your GPS.
That's because there's a hitch when it comes to using a GPS for your IFTA returns.
The GPS itself just spits out raw data that a computer program then translates into miles and location. The problem is that not every computer program does it the same way, so auditors won’t accept distance calculations based on a fleet management system or routing software’s estimates. So even if your GPS says that it comes with IFTA software, an auditor is still going to ask to see the raw data.
That means you have to know where that data is stored, and you’ll have to make sure it’s stored for at least four years (five years for IRP, but that’s a different story). You’ll also have to have some backup plans in place.
GPS Isn't Audit-Proof
When an auditor looks at the raw GPS data, they’ll be looking for every time the satellite “pings” the device. Those pings tell where the truck was at a specific time. Auditors will then calculate the distance traveled between each ping.
What if your GPS system temporarily goes offline and misses a ping? That’ll create a gap in your records. To support the claims on your IFTA returns, you may have to use driver logbooks, trip sheets, dispatch records, and/or fuel receipts as proof. In other words, all the stuff you’d be using to file your IFTA returns if you weren’t using a GPS.
So, can you use a GPS system to file your IFTA fuel tax returns? Yes, but it may not save you as much time as you think.