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?
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.