California Mileage Reimbursement: Laws, Methods, and Tools

April 25, 2024

Navigating the highways of California’s business landscape requires more than just a roadmap—it demands a thorough understanding of mileage reimbursement laws. Whether you’re an employer compensating staff for business travel or a self-employed professional managing your vehicle expenses, understanding the nuances of California mileage reimbursement is crucial. Strap in and prepare for a journey through the legal landscapes and practicalities of mileage reimbursement in the Golden State, ensuring you and your business stay compliant and efficient.

california business woman calculating mileage reimbursements

Federal and California Mileage Reimbursement Law and Guidelines

In the sunny state of California, both federal and state guidelines dictate how mileage reimbursement should be handled. This process is not just a courtesy but a legal requirement in many scenarios. In the state of California, employers must compensate employees for the business use of personal vehicles. Here, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets baseline rates annually, which serve as a benchmark for reimbursement calculations.

Rules in California for Mileage Reimbursement

California’s approach to mileage reimbursement is unique because it insists on fair compensation for employees, although paying the IRS mileage rate is not required by law. The California Labor Code Section 2802(a) obligates employers to cover all necessary expenses incurred by employees as a direct consequence of discharging job duties.

What Does the IRS Mileage Rate Mean?

The IRS mileage reimbursement rate is a guideline that simplifies expense calculations for businesses and self-employed individuals. The rate is a set amount per mile that covers not only gas but also vehicle depreciation, insurance, fuel, repairs, and other vehicle-related costs for business, medical, charity, and moving for active military members. To calculate your mileage reimbursements, you simply need to multiply the standard mileage rate by the number of business miles taken.

Mileage Rates for 2023 and 2024

For 2023, the IRS set the business mileage reimbursement rate at 65.5 cents per mile. The IRS also announced its current mileage rate, which is 67 cents per mile for business purposes in the year 2024. For medical purposes and moving for active military members, this amount is 22 cents per mile, and for charity purposes, it is 14 cents per mile in 2024.

Mileage Reimbursement of Employees

California’s robust employment laws ensure that workers are fairly reimbursed for the business use of their personal vehicles. Understanding the nuances of these laws can help both employers and employees navigate the requirements successfully.

Mandatory Reimbursement

In California, mileage reimbursement isn’t just a perk—it’s a mandate. Employers must compensate employees for any personal vehicle use that occurs during the execution of their work-related duties.

The Four Ways of Employee Reimbursement in California

  1. Lump-sum payments: Employers have the option to give a set amount regularly, but at least quarterly, regardless of actual expenses and miles driven. This is often referred to as a car allowance or a “per diem”.
  2. Actual mileage: Reimbursement based on the actual miles driven, using the IRS rate, or at a different rate set by employers. If they choose to reimburse at a higher rate than the standard IRS rate, the additional mileage compensation will be taxed as income.
  3. Actual expenses: Compensation based on the actual costs of using the vehicle. These expenses include car depreciation, lease payments, gas and oil, tires, repairs and tune-ups, insurance, and registration fees.
  4. Fixed and variable rates (FAVR): A combination that accounts for both fixed and variable costs. In this case, a fixed amount is given for insurance, taxes, and car depreciation, while for often fluctuating expenses, like gas, maintenance, repairs, and locally distinct costs, a more tailored amount is reimbursed.

Duties of Employers and Employees

Setting the type of reimbursement, overseeing and collecting accurate expense or mileage logs, and handling tax implications are all critical. Employers must provide clear guidelines and systems for logging miles and must report to the IRS, while employees need to maintain accurate records and submit their expenses to their supervisors promptly.

Mileage Reimbursement for the Self-employed

For those running their own business in California, mileage reimbursement takes on a different form, primarily affecting tax filings.

Standard Mileage vs. Actual Expense Method

Self-employed individuals can choose between the standard mileage rate and actual expenses for vehicle operation deductions. The standard mileage rate offers simplicity, while the actual expense method can provide larger deductions if substantial vehicle expenses are documented.

Duties with Quarterly Payments for “1099 workers”

Self-employed professionals and anyone who receives 1099 forms to prove their payments generally have to make estimated tax payments quarterly if they expect to owe $1,000 or more when their return is filed. Properly tracking and documenting business mileage or vehicle expenses is crucial for accurately reporting income and filing for deductions. View tax rates and calculate your California State self-employed 1099 taxes here.

Tips for Tracking Expenses and Miles

Effective tracking of expenses and mileage can save businesses and self-employed individuals a significant amount of effort, time, and money at tax time.

Options for Employers and Self-employed Individuals

  • Receipt Collection Tips: If you track actual expenses, always collect and categorize receipts related to business travel. Keep them safe from damage and always in the same places. Furthermore, make digital copies or log them in a software for a clear overview.
  • Spreadsheets and Software: Using digital tools to track business mileage and expenses simplifies reporting and ensures accuracy. There are plenty of Excel and Google spreadsheet templates and mileage tracking software out there.

Benefits of Software and Apps Over Manual Methods

Software-based solutions provide a robust alternative to traditional paper logs, especially when it comes to mileage and expense tracking. By automating calculations, these tools significantly reduce the likelihood of human errors. This accuracy is crucial for adhering to strict IRS guidelines. Additionally, digital systems streamline record-keeping, allowing for quick data retrieval and efficient organization. They also ensure data is backed up securely, safeguarding against loss due to physical damage or forgetfulness. Overall, the integration of these digital solutions into daily business practices not only meets but exceeds the capabilities of manual methods, enhancing both compliance and operational efficiency.

MileageWise: Your Vehicle Expense and Mileage Tracker

MileageWise provides tailored solutions for employers, employees, and self-employed individuals alike, focusing on efficient mileage tracking and reporting for tax deduction or reimbursement purposes.

Download MileageWise’s automatic mileage tracker app from Google Play or the App Store & try it for free for 14 days. No credit card required!


Try MileageWise for free

california freelancer drives while MileageWIse calculates her mileage reimbursements

Here’s a breakdown of how each group can benefit from MileageWise


  • Mileage Tracking for Reimbursement: Employers can manage mileage reimbursements efficiently, ensuring they only pay for verified business trips.
  • Monitoring and Compliance: Helps ensure compliance with IRS regulations, reducing the risk of audits and penalties. Employers can track the mileage logs submitted by employees, ensuring they are complete and accurate.
  • Multiple Vehicle Management: Employers can manage multiple vehicles and employee logs in one centralized system, simplifying fleet management.



  • Maximize Tax Deductions: Self-employed individuals can maximize their tax deductions with accurate mileage tracking.
  • IRS-Compliant Logs: Generates IRS-compliant mileage logs automatically, which is crucial for audit protection.
  • Effortless Trip Categorization: Users can categorize trips at their convenience, either at the time of the trip or later, making it easier to keep accurate and comprehensive records.

These solutions integrate seamlessly with MileageWise’s software, providing a user-friendly interface and reliable tracking to meet the needs of employers, employees, and self-employed individuals alike.


How do I calculate mileage reimbursement in California?

To calculate mileage reimbursement in California, multiply the total number of business miles driven by the IRS standard mileage rate for the year. For 2023, the rate is 65.5 cents per mile. Ensure you keep accurate logs of your business travel as documentation.

Is mileage reimbursement mandatory for all employers in California?

Yes, in California, employers are legally required to reimburse employees for miles driven using their personal vehicles for work-related activities. This requirement is outlined under California Labor Code Section 2802(a).

Can employers pay a rate different from the IRS standard mileage rate?

Employers in California can choose to pay a a differnent rate than the IRS standard mileage rate but are not obligated to strictly adhere to it. However, any amount reimbursed above the IRS rate may be considered taxable income.

What are the best practices for tracking business mileage?

Using a dedicated mileage tracking app or software is highly recommended for accuracy and ease. These tools automatically record miles and generate reports, which are essential for reimbursement and tax purposes.

What should I do if my employer does not reimburse for mileage?

If your employer fails to reimburse you for business mileage, you may file a claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office or seek legal advice to understand your rights and potential remedies.

How does mileage reimbursement work for self-employed individuals in California?

Self-employed individuals can deduct mileage on their tax returns using the IRS standard mileage rate. It’s essential to maintain meticulous records and logs of all business-related trips throughout the year.

Are there any specific tools recommended for mileage tracking in California?

Yes, tools like MileageWise are specifically designed to track mileage for reimbursement and tax purposes. These digital solutions ensure compliance, enhance accuracy, and simplify the process for both employees and self-employed individuals.

What if I use a vehicle for both personal and business purposes?

You must keep detailed logs that separate business use from personal use. Only the miles driven for business purposes are eligible for reimbursement and tax deductions.


Download MileageWise’s automatic mileage tracker app from Google Play or the App Store & try it for free for 14 days. No credit card required!


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