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Fixed expenses of driving in fixed and variable rate (FAVR) reimbursements



When it comes to calculating employee reimbursements for the use of employee-provided motor vehicles for business purposes, it’s essential to consider both fixed and variable expenses associated with driving. Fixed expenses, which remain relatively constant regardless of mileage, significantly determine fair and accurate reimbursements. This article provides a brief overview of fixed driving expenses and explores how they tie into Fixed and Variable Rate (FAVR) reimbursements. Only by understanding fixed expenses and their significance can we ensure fair and precise bookkeeping and proper remuneration for business-related vehicle usage

Defining the fixed expenses of driving

Fixed expenses of driving encompass those vehicle costs that remain constant, despite the number of miles traveled. These expenses are incurred regularly and are independent of mileage. Fixed expense components typically include insurance premiums, vehicle registration fees, depreciation, and lease or loan payments.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), these car costs encompass things like depreciation, lease payments, insurance costs, registration and license fees, and personal property taxes – all of which contribute to the overall maintenance and operation of the vehicle. 

It is worth noting that fixed expenses are considered ongoing and must be consistently accounted for in the reimbursement calculations. These expenses, in other words, are not contingent on the distance covered during business-related travel but are incurred regardless of mileage. 

The IRS literature emphasizes that this periodic fixed payment should be made at least quarterly (though monthly reimbursements may be ideal) to adequately address the consistent fixed expenses incurred by employees in connection with their services. By better understanding the average costs and staying on top of them, employers can ensure that employees are fairly reimbursed for the ongoing expenses related to their business-related vehicle usage.

Understanding variable expenses

In stark contrast to fixed expenses, variable expenses of driving are subject to fluctuations based on the distance traveled and other factors. Some common examples of variable expenses include fuel costs, maintenance/repairs, oil changes, tolls, parking fees, and various miscellaneous expenses that arise in direct correlation with the distance covered.

Operating costs, including gasoline and all associated taxes, oil, tires, routine maintenance, and repairs, are integral constituents of variable expenses.1 If a new vehicle is utilized, variable ownership costs may be significantly lower, as all these expenses directly relate to the wear and tear, as well as the consumption of resources, experienced by the vehicle. Used cars may require more attention than new cars. As such, these expenses can vary significantly from one trip to another, depending on factors like distance, road conditions, and fuel prices. 

1 IRS | Administrative, Procedural, and Miscellaneous, pg. 7

The significance of fixed expenses in FAVR reimbursements

Fixed expenses play a pivotal role in FAVR reimbursement plans, which are designed to establish comprehensive and equitable reimbursement for employees utilizing vehicles for business purposes. FAVR plans take into account both fixed and variable expenses, ensuring that employees receive appropriate reimbursement for the total cost of vehicle ownership and usage.

One noteworthy distinction arises when comparing FAVR plans with other reimbursement models, such as Cents per Mile (CPM). While CPM typically only provides reimbursement based on actual mileage driven, FAVR plans consider the broader scope of vehicle-related expenses. This approach acknowledges the situation where employees may incur fixed expenses for providing a car for work, even if they do not drive it in a particular month. 

Consider a scenario where an employee is required to have a vehicle available for work-related purposes, resulting in fixed expenses such as insurance premiums and deductibles, vehicle registration fees, depreciation costs, and loan or lease payments. With a traditional CPM reimbursement structure, the employee would only receive reimbursement for the actual miles driven during a given month. Under a FAVR plan, the employee is instead reimbursed for both fixed and variable expenses, ensuring that they are adequately reimbursed for the ongoing costs associated with owning and maintaining a vehicle for work-related needs, regardless of the actual mileage driven in a specific month.

Read more: when should you pay Cents per Mile?

Balanced reimbursement

One of the key advantages of incorporating fixed costs into the reimbursement calculation is ensuring balanced reimbursement. Unlike reimbursement models solely based on mileage, FAVR plans provide employees with a comprehensive reimbursement structure that takes into account both the variable costs directly linked to mileage and the fixed expenses associated with vehicle ownership and operation. This approach guarantees that employees receive fair and accurate reimbursement that recognizes the broader scope of expenses involved in maintaining a vehicle for work-related purposes.

This balanced approach to reimbursement recognizes the financial commitment and responsibility associated with vehicle ownership. As a result, employees can have greater financial stability and confidence in their reimbursement, knowing that the reimbursement they receive encompasses the full spectrum of expenses tied to their work-related vehicle usage.

By providing balanced reimbursement that considers both fixed and variable expenses, FAVR plans demonstrate a commitment to fair and accurate reimbursement, ultimately fostering a more positive and mutually beneficial relationship between employers and employees. Furthermore, this approach enhances employee satisfaction and supports their ability to meet the demands of their professional responsibilities, as they are appropriately reimbursed for the comprehensive costs associated with their business-related vehicle usage.

Accurate cost estimation

One of the significant benefits of including fixed expenses in FAVR reimbursements is the ability to achieve more accurate cost estimation. By acknowledging and incorporating examples of variable costs as well as fixed costs, FAVR plans provide a comprehensive framework that captures the full range of costs incurred by employees when using their vehicles for business activities. This also means that it allows for a more precise assessment of the total cost of using a vehicle for work-related purposes, providing a more accurate representation of the financial burden shouldered by employees.

Moreover, incorporating fixed expenses in FAVR reimbursements serves as an incentive for cost-conscious behavior. When employees are aware that fixed expenses are part of the reimbursement calculation, they are encouraged to make informed decisions regarding their vehicle usage. This can lead to more responsible and efficient choices, such as optimizing routes, minimizing unnecessary trips, and maintaining vehicles properly to reduce repair costs.

By incentivizing cost-conscious behavior, FAVR plans promote a culture of financial responsibility and accountability. Employees become more mindful of the expenses associated with their vehicle usage, seeking ways to optimize efficiency and reduce unnecessary expenditures. This not only benefits the organization by controlling costs but also aligns with broader sustainability objectives by minimizing fuel consumption and the environmental impact of emissions.

Implementation considerations

Calculating the numerous components and variables involved in FAVR reimbursements can be a complex and time-consuming task. It requires meticulous data collection, analysis, and ongoing maintenance to ensure accuracy. Organizations may face challenges in conducting this process in-house, as it demands expertise in cost analysis, regulatory compliance, and the ability to adapt to changing market conditions.

This is where external organizations become a compelling option. By outsourcing the calculation of FAVR reimbursements, organizations can leverage the expertise of specialized service providers who have the necessary resources and knowledge to handle the intricacies of cost estimation and reimbursement management. These providers are well-versed in the nuances of fixed and variable expenses associated with driving and can ensure that the reimbursement rates accurately reflect the true costs incurred by employees. This also allows organizations to streamline their operations by delegating the complex task of cost analysis to professionals who are equipped with the necessary tools and methodologies. Outsourcing, in short, frees up internal resources, enabling the organization to focus on core business activities.

To learn more about outsourcing FAVR, book a demo with us today.

Additionally, outsourcing provides access to the latest industry expertise and best practices in FAVR reimbursement management. Service providers stay up to date with regulatory changes and market trends, ensuring that the organization remains compliant and that employees receive fair and accurate reimbursements.

Compliance and reporting

When implementing FAVR reimbursements, organizations must prioritize compliance with relevant tax laws and regulations, especially concerning fixed expenses. It is crucial to establish accurate record-keeping and reporting practices for both fixed and variable expenses to substantiate reimbursements and maintain compliance with guidelines set forth by the IRS, which provides specific regulations and guidelines regarding the documentation and reporting requirements for FAVR reimbursements. These guidelines aim to ensure that reimbursements are based on legitimate and substantiated expenses incurred by employees.

Proper record-keeping includes documenting fixed expenses such as insurance premiums, registration fees, depreciation rates, and other relevant costs. These records should be organized and readily accessible to demonstrate the basis for reimbursement calculations and to respond to potential audits or inquiries from tax authorities.

By prioritizing compliance and implementing effective reporting practices, organizations can mitigate the risk of non-compliance with tax regulations. Compliance ensures that reimbursements are aligned with IRS guidelines, reducing the potential for audits, penalties, or disputes related to reimbursement calculations. 

Moreover, maintaining accurate records and adhering to reporting requirements instills transparency and trust between employers and employees. Employees can have confidence in the fairness and accuracy of the reimbursement process, knowing that the organization complies with tax regulations and provides detailed documentation to support their reimbursements.


The inclusion of fixed expenses alongside variable expenses is crucial in designing a comprehensive and equitable reimbursement system for employees’ business-related vehicle usage. FAVR reimbursement plans, with their incorporation of fixed expenses, offer organizations a more accurate and balanced approach to compensating employees. This results in fairer reimbursements that reflect the complete cost of vehicle ownership and operation. 

By considering both fixed and variable expenses, FAVR plans recognize that the cost of owning and operating a vehicle extends beyond the mileage traveled. Fixed expenses, such as auto insurance premiums, registration fees, depreciation, and loan or lease payments, are ongoing regardless of distance driven. FAVR plans capture these costs, ensuring that employees are fairly reimbursed for the total cost associated with their business-related vehicle usage.

The inclusion of fixed expenses in reimbursement calculations not only provides a more accurate reflection of the financial burden borne by employees but also encourages cost-conscious behavior. Employees become more aware of the comprehensive costs of vehicle ownership and usage, leading to informed decision-making that optimizes efficiency and minimizes unnecessary expenditures. Ultimately, by recognizing the complete cost of vehicle ownership and operation, FAVR plans pave the way for a more equitable and mutually beneficial relationship between employers and employees in the realm of business-related vehicle usage.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this blog post is legal, accounting, or insurance advice. Consult your lawyer, accountant, or insurance agent, and do not rely on the information contained herein for any business or personal financial or legal decision-making. While we strive to be as reliable as possible, we are neither lawyers nor accountants or agents. For several citations of IRS publications on which we base our blog content ideas, please always consult this article: For Cardata’s terms of service, go here:

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