Monday, April 21, 2014

Tax Time for Writers


I think taxes have been on my mind lately since I filed mine a few weeks ago. (A whole 13 days early this year—woohoo!) Someone recently tried to convince me that as a writer, I could legitimately claim as a business expense any book I had purchased in the prior tax year. Yes, any book. It didn’t matter if it was directly related to research for a specific writing project or was actually a book on writing craft. I should claim any and all books, this person claimed, because in reading these books I am honing and sharpening and studying the art of writing and storytelling, even indirectly, and therefore they are valid expenses related to my writing. This person went on to say that I should consider claiming all the money I spent on movie tickets or plays throughout the year, (again, I’m studying story), as well as any DVDs I purchased. By this line of reasoning, I suppose my Netflix subscription fees for the year should be deductible as well. After all, I only ever rent and watch DVDs because I’m studying the art of storytelling in an effort to hone my writing skills, right?

Sure, right.

I guess I’m just not as comfortable claiming as wide a variety of expenses as some people. The general rule I’ve always gone by is that if I would have incurred the expense even if it wasn’t related to my writing, it’s not a valid deduction. Would I have seen all those movies and purchased all those books even if I wasn’t a writer? Probably. That makes them not a business expense in my mind.

I do claim books I purchase specifically to perform research for a writing project, author website maintenance expenses, fees and expenses and travel costs related to writers conferences and events, membership fees for writers’ organizations, and things I feel I can directly connect to my writing. I want to be fair and honest in claiming deductions, and I certainly don’t want to send up any red flags for an audit.

Do you have any tax tips for writers? What do you view as valid deductions?

I have this memory of someone once telling me she claimed a pedicure she got in anticipation of making an author appearance as a business expense. Lol—no comment on that one.

-Dawn Lairamore



photo credit: kenteegardin via photopin cc

5 comments:

  1. When I traveled to Mexico to visit the ruins of Teotihuacan and to Wales to take a tour of King Arthur-related sites, many of my expenses were all or partly deductible. Even some of my visits to our rental condo in the Pocono Mountains is deductible, since some parts of my books are set there. Definitely investigate travel expenses related to your writing and research and claim them!

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  2. Okay, I have left grievous spelling and grammar errors at every blog I've been to today. Time to get off the computer, finish my coffee (because I obviously am not awake enough) and get to the day job! :D

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  3. Having been audited last year, and working with an auditor that didn't understand much about the writing profession, I'd encourage authors to take your (and my) line of approach. If you would have bought it without the writing, it probably doesn't count. My story has a happy ending: we should actually be getting a refund. But it was a stressful time, especially explaining legitimate expenses (swag, for example), to someone who just didn't understand.

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    1. This sounds very sensible, Caroline!

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  4. Ugh. Taxes. My advice is to pay a professional to do them. I've done them on my own in the past, but things became increasingly complicated. In my opinion, it really is worth every penny to have the professional input.

    I don't claim a lot of expenses, because I really don't have too many. I was surprised at how much postage for giveaways added up, so do keep track of that. And good luck.

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!