An accountant I’m not. However, my parents are, and I’ve heard the horror stories about their tax clients who don’t know a receipt from a pizza menu or have thrown away tax benefits by forgetting to maintain records. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) loves people who can’t keep records. That way when audits occur, the benefit falls on the side of the government. You and I can avoid that and keep more of our hard earned writing pay in our pockets. Here’s how:
- Set up files with clearly marked labels like “income,” “meetings/ conferences,” “travel,” “supplies,” “bank statements” and “postage.” You may have other categories in mind, but the easiest way to determine which files you need is to look at a tax form and note the categories the IRS likes to see for a self-employed individual with a freelance business.
- Keep files at your side––and use them. If your files are not handy, you won’t maintain them. Mine are to my right in a file drawer. I don’t leave my desk chair to toss receipts in them; deposit slips, mileage records and sales tickets are all filed properly.
- Keep a calendar. You may lose a receipt, but if you consistently maintain a calendar of your comings, goings, submissions, payments, interviews and mileage, then the IRS will give you some latitude.
- Keep a mileage log in your car. Or, do like I do and make mileage notes in your writing notebook; then transfer the information to your calendar when you return home. You’d be amazed at how many miles you travel for business that you forget to record. When you’re headed to the grocery store, if you stop by the office supply for printer ink, you can claim the round trip mileage. I try to organize my business trips alongside my personal needs so I don’t make duplicate trips.
You don’t need an elaborate system. Just introducing these few simple steps to your recordkeeping regimen can make tax time easier and less stressful––and will help you claim all expenses that are rightfully yours.
C. Hope Clark is founder and editor of FundsforWriters.com, annually recognized by Writer’s Digest in its poll of 101 Best Web Sites for Writers. She delivers four newsletters each week to thousands with her specialty being grants and income opportunities for writers of all sizes. She’s published over 200 articles on paper and online. Those reluctant to promote their writing cherish her trade paperback The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success. Find more hope for your writing career at www.fundsforwriters.com & www.theshywriter.com.