Benjamin Franklin said that “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” It’s that time of the year again when we all must sit down and face the reality of just how much we did or did not earn during the last twelve months. Many writers are not aware of how they should be reporting certain income to get the greatest benefit. Writers can get away with business tax deductions that ordinary people can’t get away with. Michael N. Marcus wrote a great article and showed samples of “tax avoidance”:
“If you are an author or a journalist, the key to creative tax avoidance is to write about things you like.”
- If you like to travel, write about travel, and then deduct the cost of traveling.
- If you like cars, rent some really cool cars, and write about them.
- If you like to eat—and who doesn’t?—go to lots of restaurants, attend cooking schools, stock your pantry, and write about food.
Read his whole blog article here: It’s Time to Think About Taxes
Writers are presumed to be a professional if their writing made a profit in at least three out of the last five tax years, including the current year. Which means: Not more than two years of expenses that are higher than the author income. Profits from your writing cannot be used to offset other income for tax purposes, such as a day job or other means of income, if you have more than two years of losses.
Considerations of Profitability
There are a couple of other considerations that revenue agencies, such as the IRS, are listing, for example:
- Have you made a profit in similar activities in the past? If you have a successful book under your belt — or even a series of articles in paid publications, such as newspapers, magazines or online publications, which can be a predictor that you are a professional writer.
- Do you have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business? How much do you know about running that business? Are you running it like a business, keeping records, keeping an eye to profitability? Did you take classes/seminars about the publishing business (e.g. marketing or tax etc.) no matter if online or offline?
- Have you created a professional book marketing and publicity plan? This might even be shown by including affiliate programs on your website/blog. If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond your control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
Expenses You Can Deduct
Always try to pay from a separate account, set up for your writing business, to make book keeping easier. Keep receipts or / make copies of payments to contractors, freelancers and agency fees for book production, such as:
- Graphic Design
- Book Layout
- Printing costs
- eBook Formatting
- Advanced Copy reviews
- Book Trailer Design
Book Promotion Costs, e.g.:
- Advertisements, online and offline
- Giveaways (free books, review copies, pens etc.)
- Flyers, brochures, business cards, book marks
- Book Fair expenses
- Costs for newsletters (AWeber, MailChimp etc.)
- Entry fee for writing contests
Other costs, such as:
- Transportation costs (note the dates, distance, reason)
- Rental for book readings
- Office rental or mortgage, heating, electricity for your home office by square feet
- Phone / Internet / e-Reader costs
- Website / blog costs, such as hosting or development
- Office Supplies
- Meal expenses: in the USA full for public events you might host, and 50% if it is for a business purpose (interview, writers conference, meeting with book professionals, publishers, agents etc.)
- Transportation to meetings, events
- Research costs
- Copyright registration and ISBN fees
- Your tax preparer or tax lawyer.
Keep all your expense slips sorted by date and neatly filed to make it easier to find them
If you pay anyone of the above listed more than a couple of hundred dollars, you would need to include the contract and a form (in the United States it is IRS Form 1099-MISC). Note for each meal/entertainment expense the names, number of people participating and reason for meeting).
Disclaimer: These tips are meant to give general insight into tax information to writers, especially in the USA, and to give you an entry point so you can research further. While every effort was made to ensure the information in this article is accurate at the time it was written, we are not tax experts. Anyone filing taxes should consult a qualified tax prepare r for updated tax laws and further specifics on how these rules might apply to your individual tax situation.
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