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"

Crawling Into a Writer’s Cave

Light at the Mouth of the Cave
Light At the End of My Tunnel

My phone rang for the fifth time in two hours. I looked at the caller ID and groaned. Not because of the person, I love her, but she represented one in a string of many interruptions.

“I heard you were home. Wanna go shopping?”

“Can’t. I’m writing today.”

“Oh. You want to grab a cup of coffee then?”

I swallowed down frustration. But then, I remembered a policy from my day job.

I said, “Would you mind if we scheduled? I haven’t really treated writing with the professionalism it deserves.”

At work, when I’m involved in a big project, I sometimes tell everyone not to disturb me unless it’s important enough to call me out of a meeting five hundred miles away. I haven’t given writing the same care. I think I’ll turn my home office into a Writer’s Cave. Once I crawl inside and shut the door, I’ll turn off my phone. If you see a post on my social media that says “I’m in the cave,” you’ll know what it means. At home, the closed door will signal my family. Does that make sense?”

My friend connected with the practicality of my situation, and we scheduled a later visit.

So I took the leap and crossed into other relationships.

I sat my family down and told them about the Writer’s Cave. “When I close the door, let me burrow in my work. If you’re tempted to disturb me, ask yourself these questions:

  1.    Can it wait?
  2.    Would I interrupt her if she were five hundred miles away?
  3.    Would I call her out of an important meeting to tell or ask her this?

They agreed, and in return, I promised regular hibernation breaks so we could have fun and catch up. My husband and I scheduled weekly dates.

Next, I told my co-workers. As a manager, employees often assume they can call any time, day or night, working or not. I don’t mind true emergencies, but often, my phone rings over petty questions. I asked everyone, including the president of our company, to respect The Cave as they would a project at the office.

I said, “If you’d call me out of a meeting five hundred miles away, then contact me; otherwise, please wait until my return.”

It worked.

Then, I spoke with my other friends, explained the Writer’s Cave philosophy, and found they supported the decision. Every single person respected my new resolve to schedule.

Since adopting this policy, my concentration improved, my word count increased, and I’ve completed more projects. I’m a better time manager. But more than anything, by proactively guarding my time and alerting the world in advance, I’ve prevented most unnecessary interruptions without offense.

Now, people ask, “Are you in The Cave tomorrow?”

Crawling into a Writer’s Cave helped me move past unproductive habits. By speaking up, I shed light on a dark problem.

How do you maintain focus? Or, what does your Writer’s Cave look like? What are three essential items that you must take with you into the Writer’s Cave? 

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