The Mileage Rate: A 50 Year Historical Journey

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The mileage rate, also known as the standard mileage deduction, plays a crucial role in calculating the deductible expenses for business-related vehicle use. It is a reflection of the cost of operating a vehicle for business purposes. Over the past 50 years, the mileage rate has undergone various changes, driven by factors such as fuel prices, inflation, and government regulations. In this blog post, we’ll take a journey through time and explore the history of the mileage rates and their significance.

1970s and 1980s: The Formative Years

The mileage rate as we know it today was introduced in the late 1970s. Prior to that, businesses were required to maintain detailed records of vehicle expenses, including fuel, repairs, and maintenance. However, with rising administrative burdens, the IRS introduced a simplified method known as the standard mileage rate.

In 1971, the initial rate was set at 10 cents per mile, accounting for fuel costs and vehicle wear and tear. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the mileage rate fluctuated, reflecting changes in oil prices, inflation, and economic conditions. By the end of the 1980s, the rate had increased to 24 cents per mile, partly due to soaring fuel prices during the oil crises of the era.

1990s and 2000s: Steady Growth and Stability

The 1990s marked a period of relative stability for the mileage rate. The rate increased gradually to keep up with inflation and rising vehicle maintenance costs. By 1998, the rate reached 32.5 cents per mile. The turn of the millennium saw continued incremental increases, with the rate reaching 34 cents per mile in 2000.

However, in the early 2000s, escalating fuel prices prompted a more substantial adjustment to the mileage rate. The rate surged to 37.5 cents per mile in 2003 and further rose to 40.5 cents per mile in 2005. The sudden spike was a response to the increased cost of gasoline and aimed to provide relief to taxpayers who used their vehicles extensively for business purposes.

2010s: Fluctuations and Fuel Efficiency Considerations

The 2010s witnessed more frequent adjustments to the mileage rate, reflecting a dynamic economic and environmental landscape. In 2011, the rate jumped to 51 cents per mile due to rising fuel costs, but it gradually decreased in subsequent years, reflecting a downward trend in gasoline prices.

Another notable development during this period was the introduction of a separate mileage rate for medical and moving purposes, in addition to the standard business mileage rate. These specialized rates accounted for the specific needs of taxpayers in these categories.

Recent Years: Technological Advances and Evolving Policies

In recent years, technological advancements and a growing focus on environmental sustainability have influenced the mileage rate. The introduction and increased adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) have prompted discussions on adjusting the rate to reflect the lower operating costs associated with EVs.

In 2020, the IRS made a significant change to the mileage rate calculation by incorporating a separate rate for electric vehicles. This reflects the government’s commitment to promoting eco-friendly transportation options and encouraging the use of EVs for business purposes.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent increase in remote work have impacted the mileage rate. As many businesses shifted to virtual operations, the mileage rate became less relevant for some taxpayers. Consequently, the IRS made adjustments to the rate to better reflect the changing business landscape.


Over the past 50 years, the mileage rate has evolved significantly, responding to fluctuations in fuel prices, economic conditions, and societal needs. From its humble beginnings as a simplification of expense allocation to the more complicated volatile rates for different mileage purposes, the mileage rate will continue to ebb and flow providing some relief for the itemizing taxpayer.

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