Tot up the miles

17 February 2017

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THE Proclaimers would walk 500 miles — and then 500 more. Part of the ministry of the clergy is to pro­claim the gospel; but, on their jour­neys around the parish, how many miles do they drive, and how many of those miles are official miles, for which expenses can be claimed?

It is a real question that not just the clergy, but others who use their car for business and personal use, have to face — including journalists like me. In the past, I habitually logged every single journey; but that was when the majority of journeys were for business, and the family use of the car was incidental. But, in recent years, as personal use of the car increased, it became a chore to write an entry in a log book at the start and end of every journey.

That is not a problem, unless you get out of the habit and forget to log business journeys, too. You then have to use internet-based mapping services to work out the mileage some weeks after the event.

Like all things, there is an app for that: MileIQ. Once downloaded, this sits in the background of your mobile phone, and uses the device’s location services to work out when you are driving. It can detect when you are on the move and auto­matically logs each journey.

Later, when you access the app, you can classify each journey as business or private simply by swip­ing left for one and right for the other. The app stores all journeys for you to see and access on your phone; or to download from MileIQ’s cloud servers in the form of HMRC-compliant logs.

The app updates itself with the correct HMRC rates of 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles, and 25p per mile above that; so, besides tell­ing you how many miles you have done, it also tells you the amount that you can claim as expenses.

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There is a privacy concern with apps such as this, but it is impossible to get the functionality without giv­ing the company behind the app, Mobile Data Labs Inc., access to your journey history. It promises not to sell or share personal data.

The app is free for up to 40 jour­neys each month; but it counts A to B as one journey, and B to A as another; so, if you regularly do re­­turn journeys, it is really free for just 20 trips per month. There are two paid plans that provide for un­­limited journeys: either $US5.99 (approximately £4.80) per month, or $US59.99 (approximately £48).

The question what to give up for Lent exposes the reality that, in the Western Church at least, many of us seem to have given up on fasting as a spiritual exercise. Instead, we give up just a little. When I was a teen­ager, we would finish a tube of Smarties in time for Lent, and use it to collect the newfangled 20p pieces. The idea was to donate the contents of the tube to Church at Eastertide.

Christian Aid has a Lent app, Count Your Blessings, which pro­vides a different photo from around the world each day, together with a reflection and an action. Sometimes, the action is to pray; sometimes, it is to act; and, at other times, it is to give. The app adds up your pledges and, at Easter, provides you with a way to donate the pledges you have made throughout Lent.

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