Words from the wise

by Sandy Johnson

With age comes wisdom. At least that’s what I’d like to think.

When I was younger, I’d leave things to the last minute knowing I had the energy to cram like crazy to meet a deadline.

But as time went on, I learned to work smarter. I found the discipline to plan ahead and spread out my effort. By the time something was due, I was well prepared to submit my final product and far less stressed about how it would be received. I started to crave feeling good about my accomplishments.

If you manage IFTA at your company, it’s hard to develop routines on your own. There are no college courses and it’s rare to have a boss with the qualifications and experience to help you. So here are some words of wisdom to help you develop good habits:

Make more deadlines
Break down IFTA’s quarterly filing deadlines into manageable chunks, with a list of things to do every week (collect distance and fuel data) and every month (produce summary reports). When the quarterly filing deadline arrives, you’ll be ready. (You can download an IFTA filing checklist at www.northstarfleet.com).

Simplify trip reports
What if drivers delivered freight like they turn in their IFTA documents? What if they saved up all their loads until the last week of the month or quarter and tried to deliver them all at once?

Drivers have enough to do, so make it easy for them to report distance and fuel information. If you’re using paper forms, are your trip reports readable and the fields large enough for the driver to be able to write in odometer readings and other data?

Do you make it convenient for your drivers to submit receipts for every single fuel purchase they make? Sometimes all a driver needs is a bunch of self-addressed stamped envelopes they can stuff with receipts and mail weekly from the road.

Demand more
If you use a service bureau and only talk to them four times a year, demand more. Anyone can file a quarterly return for you, but the best service bureaus can improve the way you manage fuel and vehicle taxes for your fleet. They can show you how to put strong internal controls in place so you can collect, report, and store data. It’s worth the cost and effort.

Explain your job
If you manage IFTA at your company, it can be hard to get people to invest in the systems and training you need to do your job better. Most companies don’t give IFTA and other mileage tax or licensing programs the respect they deserve.

Be ready to explain the benefits of better processes. For example, if a receipt is missing or disallowed, you’ll pay tax twice: once at the pump and again on the IFTA return because you’ll have to declare it as non-tax paid fuel. If the risk of paying too much tax doesn’t motivate anyone to get you the help you need, how about the number of hours of overtime you have to work in order to track down distance and fuel data? Do you have that kind of time?

Managing IFTA is a critical job. If you can’t take a load because you forgot to renew an IFTA license, it affects your business. Worse, tax problems tell authorities, customers, and competitors that you don’t pay attention to detail.

As you wrap up this quarter, are you digging for fuel receipts or pestering drivers for the distances they ran three months ago? Are you scrambling to meet the filing deadline? Now visualize the sense of control and relief that comes from filing on-time and accurate returns.

There are business and personal costs to living life on the edge of a deadline. A routine can make your job easier. You’ll be wiser for it–
and better rested.


Sandy Johnson has been  managing IFTA, IRP, and other fleet taxes for more than 25 years. She is the author of the book, 7 Things You Need to Know About Fleet Taxes, and operates northstarfleet.com, which provides vehicle tax and license compliance services for trucking operations. She can be reached at 1-877-860-8025 or info@northstarfleet.com.

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