Given how tight most of our budgets are, with rising travel costs including fuel prices, fuel levies, e-tolls and the imminent carbon taxes, getting a tax refund on your travel allowance sounds almost too good to be true.
But it is true - if your employer pays you a travel allowance, you can get back the tax you paid on that allowance - provided you can show the tax guys a complete and detailed logbook, which starts with recording your vehicle's opening odometer reading for the new tax year on 1 March, and keeping a detailed log of every trip during the year.
But (and there is always a but, isn't there?) said logbook needs to be accurate.
Alex Soldatos of Digital Matters Telematics warned: "If SARS deems your logbook deficient in any way, your travel allowance tax claim can be rejected, leaving you with a potential tax liability, because PAUYE is not always deducted on the full amount of the travel allowance during the tax year so, if your claim is rejected, you wind up having to pay in the rest."
Which is why Soldatos' firm has developed the GPS Log Book, a little doohickey about the size and shape of a mobile charger that simply plugs into the cigarette lighter socket of your vehicle and records every trip, using high sensitivity GPS and intelligent logging software.
Then, when you get home, you plug it into either a Mac or PC, and upload the data to a secure site, where each trip can be categorised and annotated with comments. The result is quick, detailed SARS-compliant tax logbooks and comprehensive records of travelling times, which will help you, me, small business owners and fleet managers to monitor and verify travelling costs, including e-toll fees.
No more pen and notebook in the glove compartment.
No more time wasted transcribing the scribbled notes on to a spreadsheet, no more human errors, no more 'forgotten' unrecorded mileage - which is crucial if you want SARS to give you any money back.
The guys at Digital Telematics developed GPS Log Books for the best possible reason - they needed them. That also meant they had a very clear idea of what they were trying to do.
And this was what they came up with:
It needed wireless installation, and an auxiliary USB port so you could still charge your smartphone while it was monopolising your lighter socket.
It had to be both Windows and Mac compatible - that's a given.
It should install itself automatically online and auto-sync on plug-in.
It must accommodate multiple vehicles and automatically log the end of a trip when the car stops, even if the lighter socket has permanent power.
It needed enough onboard memory to store at least a weeks' worth of road trip - about 4MB, they estimated - but, more importantly, it needed off site storage, for a very human reason.
SARS insists that you keep the data on record for five years; what are the chances that you will still be using the same lap-top or PC in five year's time? Which is why they went for a cloud-based system.
The GPS Log book costs R899 including VAT from the Digital Matter website.