Tax Tips (Part 4)

Here is the final blog on tax tips.

If your writing expenses add up to more than your gross sales, you can claim a loss and deduct it from your declarable income—lowering your taxable income. Be careful! IRS rules state that you must show a profit after the third year. If you are audited and you failed to show a profit by the third year, the IRS can declare the whole thing a “hobby.” The hobby tax rules are different from the business ones, and you could find yourself owing taxes on back years for expenses claimed that are not allowed to be recognized because they exceed the income (i.e., no losses are allowed for a hobby). You need to be able to prove that you are running a business and attempting to make a profit. Check with your tax preparer.

If your net business income is $400 or more within one year, you must file the Form SE for your self-employment taxes. The IRS free publications on how to file these forms are excellent. The one I have found most helpful is Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Businesses. Call your IRS office at 800-829-3676 to obtain forms and pamphlets, or contact them on their website at www.irs.ustreas.gov/.

Remember!  If you are actively writing and seeking publication, you are a businessperson. Be sure to run your business accordingly with accurate records and receipts to back up your deducted expenses. Again, check with a tax preparer (enrolled agent, registered/licensed tax preparer, or CPA), the IRS, and/or your state tax agency if you have any questions.

Treating your writing as a business, taking expenses you are entitled to, and cutting down on your declarable income leaves more money to donate to church and mission organizations. Thus, one ministry can serve another.

 

Tax Tips (Part 3)

There are expenses related to having an office in your home that are also deductible, including a percentage of your utilities, maintenance and upkeep, and even depreciation. You must have a designated room as an office that is not used for anything else to take these deductions. You measure the size of the room and see what percentage of your entire house it is to determine what percentage of utilities you can deduct.

Deducting a portion of your home as depreciation can be tricky. A word of warning: Watch the laws concerning the sale of your home. Deducting an office can affect your capital gains. When you sell your home, any depreciation taken in prior years has to be claimed as income and can impact the tax line.

The deductions do add up. Personally, I have written off six computers, two college degrees, and an assortment of other expenses. The computers have all been used for my business, not for family computer games. Both of my degrees (a BA in Religious Studies and an MA in Communications) were considered job-related. When I go on vacation, I often incorporate business into my trip, so that I can write off part of the vacation. However, I only write off the percentage that directly relates to my freelance writing.

More tips will be given in next week’s blog.

 

Tax Tips (Part 2)

When a publishing house pays in excess of a certain dollar amount to an individual within a year’s time, currently $600, they are required to report it on a Form 1099 to you and the IRS. These forms reflect income you’ve earned during the year. Make sure you keep these with your tax records. Often a publishing house will send you a 1099, even when your payment is under $600. Be sure to report all 1099s on your income tax return.

Let me reemphasize that even if you did not make a profit, you can still fill out a Schedule C, claiming your expenses for the year. Save your rejection letters. They are excellent, documentary proof of your intent and effort to earn money as a writer.

Keep a ledger and save your receipts. Quicken and Excel are excellent computer programs for tracking your income and expenses. Some of the deductible expenses you need to keep track of are your stamps, business card expenses, stationery supplies, computer supplies, publications, books on writing, writing conferences, and dues to writing organizations. They add up quickly. You can also deduct travel costs for business purposes, as well as a percentage of your meals and entertainment, if they are directly related to your freelance writing.

More tips will be given in next week’s blog.

Tax Tips (Part 1)

Here are some tax tips I have learned through the years. However, I am not a tax expert, so please check with a tax preparer (enrolled agent, registered/licensed tax preparer, or CPA), the IRS, and/or your state tax agency if you have any questions. If you are actively writing and seeking publication, you are a professional freelance writer and have a business that entitles you to deduct expenses.

Many of you may think the work involved isn’t worth bothering with, especially if you didn’t realize any income—but it is! There is a certain period (usually three to five years) allowed for a beginning business to start showing taxable profits. You may think of your writing as a hobby or avocation, but if you are trying to market your product, then you are in business. Claim your expenses and lower your income tax!

So even if you did not make a profit, you can still fill out a Schedule C, claiming your expenses for the year. Save your rejection letters. They are excellent, documentary proof of your intent and efforts to earn money as a writer.

More tips will be given in next week’s blog.