Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tax Time

I woke this morning thinking it is time to do my taxes…. oh the horror! When I was in graduate school I learned one of the biggest tax tips of my life—SAVE EVERY receipt and DEDUCT EVERYTHING! If you make any money from your writing, all that you spend on it can be deducted.

So for what it’s worth I thought I’d share my rudimentary system of doing taxes:
I take every receipt from 2009, which I have collected in a large manila folder in the bottom of the desk drawer (this is the most important step—really save every receipt, even the ones you don’t think are deductible--you can always figure out later if they are!) This includes every book, every tube of paint, every pencil, every toner cartridge, every bus or plane I took for a reading or speaking gig, every meal I bought while on that trip, every art museum I visited or play I saw (I get huge inspiration from art, plays and movies for all my work), etc….

All those receipts get dumped on the floor and I start organizing them in five piles labeled: Office, Art, Books, Printing/Copying, Postage, Travel, and Research. I add them up on my handy calculator. Then I write what I make from my three sources: Teaching, Royalties, Speaking and School Visits, and figure what percentage of the itemized receipts is to be deducted from each income earned. I add and subtract all those numbers, along with deductions from my home office/studio (1/4 of rent or mortgage plus 1/4 of utility bills, which goes against my royalty earnings). Then, the easy step, I bring those numbers to my magic accountant, and hold my breath while I wait for him to do the rest. He is so worth his fee, and his fee is also deductible.


You'll find me under a pile of receipts now…


  1. I think there's nothing in the world I hate as much as doing taxes. It's like coming face to face with my own inadequacies and dealing with money at the same time. This advice is terrific. It was a great day when someone told me I could write books off.

  2. Thank you, Lisa. I agree - tax time is painful. But your tips helpful. I follow a similar format of various categories, but my takeaway from your list is dividing up where the write-offs are taken from. I will discuss this with my accountant to make sure we are doing it the most effective way. It's important to remember that at some point (3-5 years, I believe) one must show more income than deductions. About ten years ago, I started doing my own taxes on Turbotax, per the encouragement of a fellow writer. I liked that I could see how the system worked. But panic ensued in years when I had many deductions and not so much income. My accountant helps me keep faith that I likely will not be audited. But this time of year I start yearning for a flat tax policy.

  3. Taxes are also a good excuse to buy yourself expensive writerly toys. Since you can write all of them off.

    In fact, I may just swing by the apple store tonight ...