Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Business Side

I know it's Valentine's Day, but I'm doing taxes. Ummm... Ya.

So, I thought I'd take a minute from sorting my receipts to talk about this important aspect of the business side of writing.

If you're like me - unpublished or even if you're semi-published (small things in lit journals, etc.), you probably can't afford to pay someone to do your taxes for you. For this, I recommend TurboTax Online. Takes me much less time and doesn't cost all that much. This means, however, sorting receipts and plugging them in. It means also, figuring the deduction for your workspace, your supplies, your computer and printer and fax and whatever else you need to create your work or query or network. Whatever you pay for to do your work, you should be deducting. (Please note, I'm not a tax professional, so please consult one before deducting anything. You don't want to be audited, and if you are, please don't point to me and say "Well, SHE told me it was okay!" The IRS man will just look at you funny and cheerfully tally up your bill.)

Another thing. Something I learned from working in the business sector. Keep all your receipts. If you're mailing queries, you should have receipts for postage, envelopes, stamps (from your SASEs), etc. You should also have receipts for your printer paper, cartridges, etc. If you take your agent out to lunch... Keep the receipts and claim it. If you attend a workshop or conference... Keep the receipts and claim it. Mr. TaxMan is going to want to see those suckers if the two of you ever meet.

Now, if you're also like me and your computer, etc., is also used for personal stuff or for another business' stuff (like my bookstore), you should calculate what percentage of time the space is used for your writing. (For me, it's about 80-90%.) And figure accordingly - something TurboTax does automatically.

I'm not a big fan of taxes - who is - so I claim everything I can possibly claim. But LEGALLY. If you sent a package to your Mom, don't claim it as a business expense, even if your mother lives in NYC and you can pass it off as a query. I'm sitting here looking at a USPS receipt for just such a thing - although Mom lives in Michigan - and if I really wanted to, I could claim she was a bookstore customer. It wouldn't be honest, so it's not going in the tally. If you aren't worried about the honesty part of it, though, look at it this way - Mr. TaxMan is watching, and is a $5.30 postage receipt worth getting smacked for tax evasion?

And for godsakes, don't pad. If anything, if you have to estimate any costs, round down. I figure, that way if I ever do get audited, I'll look stupid but stupid to the good side.

Okay, enough stalling. Back to my receipts. Good luck with your taxes, and I hope you get a big refund this year. Or at the very least a small tax bill.

(CYA statement: I am not a tax professional, and this post in no way should be considered expert advice. Check with an actual accountant or tax guy or whoever you use before using any of the above suggestions.)

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