Mystery shoppers can put a lot of miles on a car. A LOT
There are those mystery shoppers who are lucky enough to live in a thriving metropolis. One that has a lot of chain stores and franchise restaurants. These shoppers can make a lot of money going a short distance. Even possibly doing several shops at one stop.
Route shopping is popular among some people. One way of route shopping is to be assigned to a chain of stores to shop along a certain length of highway or towns. Some mystery shoppers just love this type of shopping. They get to do the same assignment at various stores. They stop into the store or business and conduct their shop. Return to their car to take notes or submit a report. Then start up the car, to move on to the next store and do the same thing again.
Other mystery shoppers create a route for themselves based on a variety of shops they see offered. And places they need to go or would like to visit. If they can slip in a hotel shop along the way, even better! Making a trip like this into a two or three-day adventure – maybe even stopping in to see relative or friend – can make the ‘work’ work for you!
There are many ways to be creative when mystery shopping. Ways to allow your work to work in your favor for income, reimbursements, overnight stays, and free or discounted meals.
But what about all those miles?
And the time you spend driving to different shops? Is it really worth driving to these shops if no one is reimbursing you for the miles?
Well, let’s start with the fact that few employers reimburse their employees for driving to work each day.
In the United States, the average commute in 2015 (the last year for which statistics are available) was 25 minute each way for a typical 260 days of work. This calculates to 216 hours spent commuting.
The average American drives 10,658 miles each year – there are no hardcore numbers for average miles for work alone – let’s just agree there is an expense in time and money to commuting that is not returned to an employee.
As an independent contractor, you can factor gas, tolls, and wear and tear on your car into your cost of doing business. You can reclaim money for your time spent ‘commuting’ on your taxes. Legally! (check with your tax advisor, of course!).
There are exceptions to the rule where a mystery shopping provider may offer some compensation for mileage. But this is typically done when a mystery shopping company needs to get a shop completed by a certain date. It is not a common practice a mystery shopper should count on.
Keeping Track of Miles and Expenses
You are running your own small business – so you must also keep track of those expenses that can help you reduce your burden at tax time. Mileage for business can be a significant reduction in your taxes. The IRS reimbursement rate for use of your vehicle for business purposes in 2017 is 53.5 cents per mile.
Tolls and parking expenses can be included as well.
Mystery shopping provides you with flexibility in choosing your work, hours, miles you drive, and the ability to make a difference in the lives of others. Mystery shopping can be a profitable home-based business if you treat it as such.
Keeping your eye on the reason you chose to mystery shop and the benefits you gain, including expenses to write off, is well worth every mile you drive!
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