Five Tax Tips Most Writers Miss

I’m a strange breed of writer. A Missouri mutt if you will.

One part relational, warm and fuzzy with a passion for flowery phrases. One part practical business woman with multi-layered experience in payroll, accounting, banking, marketing, human resources and taxes.

My poor agent must wonder what to do with this mixed mess. Sorry Barb.

However, there are benefits to my schizophrenic passion mix. I not only know writing is a business, but I understand the business in writing. My emotional side wants to please God, so I’ll overturn any stone to steward the gifts He gave me.

My varied interests drive me to dig through my diverse background for hints, tips, and answers to support my love for words and their meanings. And I like to share what I learn.

For this post, I took something I know and hope the resource helps my writer friends. Whether writing is your childhood dream or an adult job — it’s still business. And you’re the owner.

April 15th is around the corner, so let’s make sure all you business owners are getting your full tax benefits. We must give Caesar what is Caesar’s, but not a penny more.

Here are the five tax deductions most often missed by writers I speak with:

1. Mileage. Keep a detailed log. All trips you take to buy supplies (including bookstores to buy books), go to meetings or meals where you discuss the craft, projects, or marketing are usually deductible. And don’t forget those trips to the post office.

2. Telephone and Internet charges. You’ll need to calculate your percentage for business use.

3. Subscriptions and dues. Magazines count for research (do we read anything without evaluating the writing?). Writing organizations, clubs, or anything else related that charges dues and fees count.

4. Travel, including rentals, parking and toll fees. Don’t forget your mileage to and from airports.

5. Extraordinary entertainment, but you must support your claim with good documentation. Examples are movies you study, amusement parks, if you observe behaviors, capture quotes, or watch a process relevant to something you write. Music and other artistic forms you study or use for creative inspiration. What entertains you while feeding the muse?

Most writers don’t make a lot of money, so a penny saved is a penny we need to earn.

Tax laws change often — don’t fail to get current data. This article has good general information, but see your own professional tax preparer for an in-depth evaluation of your situation. If you want to research on your own, go to the IRS for specific guidelines.

My mixed interests help me support the dream I love by making sure I take all the legal tax deductions I’m entitled to. A Missouri mutt needs to eat, too.

Do you have more tips you could share? What other savers can make writers money? Do you consider yourself a business owner?

Tax tips for writers by Missouri mutt
My Missouri Mutt - "Boss"

21 Replies to “Five Tax Tips Most Writers Miss”

  1. I just found out from my accountant that we’ll be able to use some previous year expenses as “start up costs”. THAT was good news. I also heard someone suggest an easy way to keep a log (for that so vital documentation) is on the iphone (if you’re one of those so-tech-inclined people).

    1. Great ideas Charise. It’s always a nice surprise to find you are allowed to expense from a previous year. It doesn’t happen often.

      And I’m also using technology to better organize and track my business related income and expense. Sure saves a lot of time. Thanks for the comment!

  2. If you work from home, a percentage of major home repairs can be deducted. Also, a percentage of your electricity bill can be deducted too. Don’t forget new computer software, if used for writing, can be deducted as well. I never thought about magazine subscriptions, thanks for the tips.

    1. You’re welcome Melissa — pooling our information helps us all reap benefits at tax time. You listed some really good reminders.

      All of these tips can jiggle the brains of our accountants. Let’s face it, they help hundreds if not thousands of people during tax season and can’t remember everything.

  3. You can count “wear and tear” on office equipment, and anything that has to do with writing.

  4. Great tips. Our accountant recommends using Quicken Home and Business for tracking business expenses. It’s loaded with reminders about what to classify as business related expenses for working from home.

    1. Absolutely Henry. I use an accounting program myself. Ideally, updating at least once a month makes the tax season pass like a breeze.

      Honestly, I don’t note my records that often, but still, appreciate the relief of organized documentation at the end of the year. It’s easier if I do it as I go.

  5. Thank you, Anita. Those were great tips. I knew about the mileage, but never considered the magazine subscriptions or entertainment. I’ve had my eye on a few magazines lately, and now I think I’m going to get them.
    Also, thanks to Melissa Norris about the home repairs tip, and to Henry about the software. I’m still using the old method – pencil and ledger. 🙂

    1. You are welcome Amanda. This is why I love brainstorming. Our ideas ripple when we spark with a little information.

      We always want to honestly report our income taxes, but sometimes we don’t dig for those legal deductions. Money in the bank — ours, not Uncle Sam’s.

  6. There are great apps on the iphone and the android based phones that act as scanners. Take pictures or scan receipts with a smart phone and email them to a special email address… its an easy way to keep them forever. Especially since thermal paper fades over time.

  7. These are such great tips, Anita. Thanks to everyone else for contributing as well. Tax season is crying time at my house. I dig out that huge folder I’ve stuffed everything into and … well you can guess the rest. I tried using tax software, but I nearly had a breakdown. Just didn’t get that “tax” gene!

    1. No worries Barb. When I did taxes, we often had clients bring in their stuffed tax box with apologies. But you are right, not everyone inherited the tax gene. So don’t beat yourself up, that’s why God designed bookkeepers and accountants. 🙂

  8. Great tips! I hadn’t thought of the magazine subscription.

    Computer equipment and office equipment bought for writing can be written off.

    I purchased some of my books for signing/speaking engagements…that’s a write-off too. Yay!

  9. If your home office is a separate room that is not used for anything other than your office, you can take a deduction for home office area. For instance, if your office is 10% of your house, you can deduct 10% of electricity and other utilities for heating and cooling, etc. It may vary from state to state, so ask your tax person. I also deduct expenses such as copying manuscripts to send out, postage to mail them, ink for my printer, and any hardware/software upgrades to my work station.

    1. In my state you definitely can use home office deduction as long as all the criteria is met. Good reminder Kerry. We need to take advantage of every penny.

      Thanks for the comment,

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