Monday, December 31, 2012

Nothing is Certain in a Writer's Life except Rejection and Taxes

To paraphrase B. Franklin (one of my lifelong idols) nothing is certain in a writer's life except rejection and taxes.

I don't have the stamina to talk about the former, so let's discuss the latter. It surprises me how many writers fail to file their writing expenses on their taxes.

"I haven't sold anything, so I can't claim any expenses on my taxes."

backgrounds,Benjamin Franklin,currencies,finances,firearms,founding fathers,guns,history,messages,NVTOfficeClips,people,politicians,show me the money Wrong! It's true the IRS is picky, but as long as your writing is more than a hobby you can claim writing-related expenses on your income taxes. In fact, you should. Writers conferences, reference books, classes, etc. etc. all cost money. As long as you're serious about having a writing career it's in your best interests to deduct writing-related expenses - and claim any profit you made.
I have been 'serious' about my writing career since 2007 and I've made a little money every year. It's pocket change really, but enough that I needed to claim it on my taxes. Also, every year since 2007 I've had expenses such as writing conferences, meals with my critique group, and mileage to critique sessions. I claim all of this.

Whoa, buddy, you say. If I claim stuff like that the IRS will audit me.
It's a possibility. Any American may be audited at any time. How do you protect yourself? Keep accurate records.
  • I keep receipts for any conferences or classes I attend, as well as a copy of the program from the event, my name badge, notes and handouts.
  • I keep a hardcopy of every meal receipt with the writing topic discussed and the names of other authors in attendance written on the back.
  • I have a detailed mileage spreadsheet that lists the starting and the ending physical addresses, the reason I attended (must be writing related), and the starting and the ending mileage.
Yes, this is a lot of work, but when you make it a habit, you will save a bundle during tax time.

Still think authors can't claim writing expenses on their income taxes? Here are some links that might help convince you.

Diane Kelly is a funny romance writer who just happens to be a CPA. She offers some great tax tips for writers. If you are able to attend her tax workshop for authors, consider yourself blessed. 
J. Kathleen Cheney just sold her first novel and has a very interesting blog post about how she's dealing with her taxes.

How about you? Any tax-related stories you'd like to share?


  1. Kyle,

    Thanks for the nifty ideas on tax savings! And now I have a new series (Diane's) to read, too. :-)

    Debbie W.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Debbie. You'll enjoy Diane's series. It's a hoot!