Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Claiming Pizza Delivery Mileage On Your Taxes

I didn't drive last night but I did finish up my taxes. Now, I am not an accountant nor am I a professional tax advisor. I have, however, made understanding taxes a hobby of mine for years and I feel that I know them pretty well.

Many pizza drivers wonder if they can claim their mileage on their taxes. This post is directed towards them.
The answer to the question is, yes, you can. It goes on Form 2106, Employee Business Expenses, which then becomes an itemized deduction on your 1040 Schedule A Itemized Deductions.

If you want to read what the IRS says, start by reviewing Topic 510, Business Use Of A Car.

What you need to know:
  1. There are 2 methods: Actual expenses or mileage. Unless you are driving a newer car that you are still making high payments on, it is usually better (and almost always simpler) to use the mileage method.
  2. If you claim expenses, you must also claim your reimbursements.
  3. To claim your expenses, you must itemize your deductions on Schedule A. Unless you have a mortgage and pay a bunch of interest, or make large charitable donations, you are better off claiming the standard deduction.
  4. Even if you itemize, your unreimbursed expenses must be at least 2% of your total income.
I personally did claim my mileage this year. I always claim 100% of my tips also, so fear of being audited is not an issue for me.

You fill all this information out on IRS Form 2106.

For example, here is my info for 2006:
Start on page 2
Line 11: Date vehicle placed in service: 1/1/2006
Line 12: Total miles: 23,585
Line 13: Business miles: 10165
Line 14: Pct business use: 43.10%
Lines 15-16: blank
Line 17: Other miles: 13240
Line 18-21: Yes
Line 22: $4523

Since I use the mileage method, not the actual expenses method, I can leave lines 23-38 blank.

Back to page 1
Line 1: Vehicle expense from 22: $4523
Line 2: Parking fees, etc: 0
Line 3: Travel expenses: 0
Line 4: Business expenses: 0 (if you are claiming a cell phone, flashlights, maps, etc this is the spot).
Line 5: Meals and entertainment: 0
Line 6: Total Expenses: $4523

Line 7: Reimbursements: $2241 (this is your nightly per-run money)
Line 8: 4523 - 2241 = $2282
Line 9: $2282
Line 10: $2282

Now this total $2282 goes to line 20 on Schedule A, Job Expenses.

So since I itemize anyways, this extra deduction of $2282 for me saved me a few hundred dollars in taxes. I keep a delivery log anyways and I just write down my starting & ending mileage each night.

Again, since I use the mileage method, I do not have to track my car repairs, gasoline costs, etc.

Note once again that I am NOT an accountant, but I am confident that this information is accurate. However, I am not giving any advice here, just letting you know what I did. Study this and compare it to your own situation, and review the IRS publications, and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Just Like Mona Lisa

I had a little car trouble last night. I am driving a new (to me) 1992 Hyundai Excel and I forgot to turn the lights off when I parked it for my day job. So when I got back after work, the battery was dead. I called my store to tell them I would be late, called AAA, but eventually I got a jump-start from a La Quinta Inn shuttle van. Tipped them $4, it was all I had in my wallet at the time.

And yes, I called back and cancelled the AAA call. (They had said it may be up to 90 minutes).

So I got to work about a half hour late. I worked about 5.5 hours (4.5 driving), drove 39 miles on 12 deliveries, and made $31 in tips. This was boosted by a $10 triple-run, 3 orders called in within the last 10 minutes before we closed. All in all a pretty profitable night.

But the topic of this post is my new friend Mona. Mona was a cook at another restaurant in our franchise that recently closed (due to a bad location on the wrong side of the local mall). She got transferred over to our store about 2 weeks ago, and she is awesome. I haven't met anyone named Mona before so when she told me her name I asked how to spell it. She said "M O N A, just like Mona Lisa."

Mona has worked for our franchise for almost 23 years. She is 70 years old. And she does more work than any other 2 workers combined, maybe even 3. She never stands still, if she doesn't have anything to do she will find something to clean. It may not even be something in her area, but she will work on it anyways. Mona obviosly takes great pride in her work.

Last night while I was out on my last 3 deliveries, Mona finished up most of the dishes. Then while I was doing the very last of the dishes and cleaning the sinks, Mona swept and mopped the area that I was responsible for.

While we were waiting for the manager to finish closing up the registers, I jokingly asked Mona how long they were going to make her work there before they made her the boss.

"Until the day I die" Mona replied. "They tried making me a manager at the other place but it didn't work out"

"Some people are too good at working to be the boss," I told her. "It would be a waste to have you standing around telling people what to do."

She laughed and said, sarcastically, "I can see me standing around."

Mona is a great asset to our restaurant and I hope to work with her more often.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Never Count Your Money, When You're Standing At The Table

First off, my daily stats. I worked Sunday night from 5-close. That's 6 hours on the road. I took 11 deliveries, drove 53 miles, and made $28 in tips. Decent night. It snowed about 2 inches between 8-11, so that made things a little slippery as well.

One interesting note, I had 3 consecutive deliveries to a mobile home park. Those 3 deliveries tipped $11, almost $4 each. My other 8 deliveries tipped $17, barely over $2 each. Some of my best tippers live in trailers.

Now to the topic of this post. We had a dine-in customer tonight that was absolutely raving about the quality of our pizza. They loved the generous toppings, it was so much better than our franchise on the opposite side of Cleveland, and so on. The waitress (I refuse to use the politically correct term "server") was great even though they "drove her crazy."

So when they left, I was curious to see if they had tipped accordingly, so I asked our waitress, Catherine. She was cleaning up the salad bar and said she hadn't checked yet. Now they had been gone for at least 3-4 minutes. If it was me, I'd have been anxious to see how much I had made. But not Catherine. She said I could go get it off the table for her if I wanted, which I did.

Now their check was $57 and they left a very generous $18 tip. I handed it to Catherine and she put it in her apron without even counting. I asked her if she was going to count it and she said no, she thought that was rude.

Now, I understand not wanting to count the money in front of the customer, but after they had already been gone? As I said before, I would have been counting it up and adding it to my running total. Is that rude?

I am not a waiter, I'm a driver. I do have to make sure the customer gives me enough to cover the check and see if they need change, so I do fan through the bills. If there are singles I know they don't need change. So I just do a rough count to make sure they have covered the check and I don't do an exact count in front of them.

But when I get back to the car, I do count it before I add it to my bank.

Also, about 20% of our deliveries are credit-cards. The customer can write a tip on the line. I do glance at them to make sure they are signed. (I actually had a manager once make me go back to a house because the customer had written the tip but then forgot to sign the receipt). But it's just a quick glance to make sure it is filled out properly, I don't focus on reading the tip amount at that time.

But again, once I get back to the car I will definitely check the tip amount before I start back to the store.

In closing, I was happy that Catherine got a nice tip, but I am curious what others may think. Is it rude for a waitress or waiter to count the tip discreetly after the customer had already gone? (In this case it was after 10 and we had no other dine-in customers in the store).

Friday, January 26, 2007

Getting Hired to Deliver Pizza

I didn't work last night, but since I've been delivering pizza for 2 1/2 years and blogging for 2 1/2 days, I will spend some time catching up. Today I will start from the beginning, getting a job.

It was the summer of 2004, I was recently remarried with 6 kids, and the increased bills were taking their toll. I decided to try to increase my income, and I thought the best way might be to add a part-time job. My weekend nights were free so I thought maybe this would be a good fit with pizza delivery.

I had been pondering this idea for several weeks but I had never had a job like this before so I didn't know how to take the first step. My first job had been working on our family dairy farm. Two of my college summers I worked in the Quality Control department for a factory where my older brother worked. I had also had 5 different jobs in 16 years doing computer systems work, so I knew how to get hired in that field. But I had never worked in the restaurant business.

One Saturday afternoon, after returning from my uncle's funeral, I decided that since I had a tie on already, I would take the opportunity to try to get a job. I first called about 6 different pizza places to ask if they were hiring. The common answer was "Sure, come in and fill out an application."

Looking back, the question I would ask now is "Is the hiring manager in today?" If you want to get hired, it is much better to meet with the manager face to face, rather than to just add your application to the always-growing stack. So find out when the manager is working, go in when he or she is there, fill out the application, and ask for an interview right then.

Obviously don't go in (or even call) during the lunch (11AM - 1 PM) or dinner (4PM - 8 PM) rush. Try to go in the morning or early afternoon when the manager is not so busy and actually has time to meet with you.

Anyways, wearing a tie and carrying my (irrelevant) resume, I set off. I think I filled out 5 applications and sat down with 2 managers. In the interviews, I stressed that I was motivated (I needed the money), I was dependable, and I was a hard worker.

Both managers expressed interest. One was a local mom-and-pop pizza joint with 2 locations. The other was a franchise-owned "Big 3" pizza place.

Both managers pulled my driving record from the state BMV. The local place went back 2 years but the franchise only went back 1. I had some tickets in my past but nothing in the last year so I got hired in less than a week to work at the franchise pizza place.

In the meantime I called back several of the other pizza stores where I had filled out an application, and never got much interest. This is why I feel a face to face meeting is important to set yourself aside from the other applicants.

Also, when you go for an interview, get cleaned up, shave, and dress nice. You don't have to wear a suit. (I found out later that the employees were very amused by the guy (me) who came in for the interview in a tie). But pizza drivers interact directly with the customers every day, and appearance matters. Come to your interview looking a little better and dressing a little nicer than you normally would.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Average Wednesday

I worked last night from 6-close. We close at 11 PM but the closing driver can't leave until the closing tasks are done, including washing the dishes, and sweeping and mopping the floors. Last night was our buffet night so there were alot of dishes and we didn't leave until after midnight.

I took 9 deliveries and made about $17 in tips. In a 5-hour shift, the way our store is staffed, I expect to take a minimum of 10 deliveries (2 per hour) and I generally average about $2 per delivery in tips, so both numbers were slightly under what I expect, but not enough to get too upset.

Oh and it did start to snow between 9 and 10 PM, which slowed the roads down just a little. It's been a relatively warm & dry winter for us so far, but the next few weeks are forcast to be colder (normal January weather in Ohio).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Odd Or Even

So on Saturday night I had a delivery to 221 Rhode Island. I go to 205 Rhode Island all the time so I knew right where it should be. Houses are numbered by the 2's there, I went around the corner and saw 223 and noticed the house before it was all lit up, so I pulled in.

Knock, knock, knock, but nobody answers. I call the customer but get voicemail. I get back in my car and call the store to see if there was anything strange about the order, but nobody knew anything. So I returned, set it on top of the oven, and took my next delivery.

About 45 minutes later, they call back and said, yes they were home and 221 was the correct number. Manager Alison decides to remake the pizza and as luck would have it I get to go again. Fine, I knew right where it was. Again, it's lit up but no cars, then I notice the house number. 219! I check again the house next door and it is indeed 223. I start looking in between to see if there's a house in back, a garage, a doghouse, anything.

Just then I see out of the corner of my eye a woman approaching the car. She waves me back across the street. I look back, and sure enough, right there between 220 and 222 is 221. On the even side of the street!

I ask the lady, "How in the world did you get a house on the even side of the street!"

"I don't know, I just moved in and I forgot to tell you" was her reply.

"Well I will put a note on your address as soon as I get back." Which I did.

This is the only house I know of in our delivery area that is on the wrong (numbered) side of the street.


Hello. My name is Kevin. I am 39 years old, married, with 7 kids. I work in IT by day, but a few nights per week I deliver pizza for some extra income.

I have been driving since June 2004 and I work for one of the "big 3" (Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John's). I don't want to say which one right now but you are probably clever enough to figure it out eventually.

This blog will contain stories of the trials and tribulations (and triumphs) of pizza delivery. I will try to update this a couple times each week, but with 2 jobs and 7 kids, I hope you will excuse me if I am too busy and miss a post every now and then.

For now, I will end with a reminder and a link, tip the pizza guy!