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2018 Owner-Operator Tax Return Analysis

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

LAKEWOOD, COLO. - June  6, 2019 - Preliminary data based on over 3,000 tax returns indicate that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act had an overall positive impact on owner-operators in the trucking industry. ATBS has observed the following statistics related to how owner-operators fared on 2018 taxes.

First, the average owner-operator’s taxable Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) went from $43,093 in 2017 to $52,180 in 2018. This was an increase of $9,087 or 21%. The increase was predominantly related to a booming year in the transportation industry.

During the same time, the average owner-operator Total Tax Liability went from $8,242 (2017) to $9,284 (2018).  This was a much smaller increase of $1,042 or 12.6%. The overall effective tax rate for owner-operators went from 19.1% (2017) to 17.8% (2018) or a reduction of 1.3%. The net result is that owner-operator taxable income increased 21% while actual tax liability increased only 12.6%.  Following are some of the specific reasons for the reduction in owner-operator tax liability.

  • 68% of ATBS owner-operator clients took advantage of the Qualified Business Income deduction with an average of $6,235 being deducted from their tax liability.  This was a new deduction for 2018 as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

  • The average client’s Standard Deduction went from $9,439 to $18,862. The number of drivers filing the standard deduction increased from 71% to 94%.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act essentially doubled the standard deduction for most tax filers.

  • The average owner-operator depreciation deduction increased from $17,072 (2017) to $20,965 (2018). The significant increase in depreciation was a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allowing faster depreciation methods than prior years.

The only negative consequence of 2018 taxes was the number of drivers that paid the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty.  In 2018, 28% of ATBS clients paid the penalty with an average penalty amount of $1,027. However, this mandate will no longer be in effect for 2019 taxes.

Overall, statistics from ATBS show that owner-operator clients enjoyed a mostly positive impact from the changes that came with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Owner-operators who would like help with taxes and bookkeeping are encouraged to call ATBS at 866-920-2827.

About ATBS

American Truck Business Services (ATBS) is the largest tax, consulting, and bookkeeping firm in the transportation industry, with over 20 years of experience working with owner-operators and independent contractors. Since 1998, ATBS has helped over 150,000 clients earn more money, reduce stress, and drive a richer life. In 2016, ATBS developed the RumbleStrip line of service packages, which includes back-office solutions for truck drivers in every stage of their careers. For more information, visit


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