Filing taxes as a freelance writer

By Katharine Swan On Thursday, January 05, 2006 At 3:35 PM


Well, it's getting to be that time of the year again: time to start thinking about filing your taxes! Oh, I know, most people aren't thinking about it yet. (Of course, they're also the ones likely to be still having to think about it on April 15th.) However, I have a lot to consider this year, so I thought I'd better start early. Besides, it's easier to check out tax books from the library right now.

I'd been told by other writers that there are a lot of deductions you can claim as a freelancer. I checked into it, and sure enough, there are plenty of ways to get around owing taxes at the end of the year, particularly if you didn't make very much (which beginning freelancers generally don't). I bought a new laptop when I decided to quit and pursue my freelance career full time, since there's no way the old laptop could have handled it - I can claim that as office equipment. I can also claim a percentage of my rent and utilities as office expenses, since I operate from a home office. I can claim any mileage that I accrued on my personal car through driving back and forth from interviews for profile articles, plays I reviewed, etc. I can also claim any office supplies I buy - such as printer ink and paper - as well as a portion of my internet service (whatever percentage I decide is used for freelancing and not personal uses).


Now, this isn't about being sneaky or trying to get out of paying taxes. It's about finding out what your real income is. Income taxes are based on how much you make at your job. However, when you are working at an actual job, you don't need to pay for certain expenses, such as office space or supplies - the company takes care of that. (Well, that's the way it's supposed to happen, at any rate.) Therefore, your salary is your actual income. However, if you are a freelance writer, then you are covering your own expenses, such as office space, equipment, and supplies. Therefore, to find out what your real income is, you have to subtract these expenses from what you've made. Since taxes aren't deducted from your payments as a freelancer, your goal is not to have to pay taxes for income that you aren't actually making (i.e. income that goes toward paying your business expenses). While deducting part of your rent as office space may seem like cheating, consider that were you not working out of your home, you might not need as much space, and therefore would have a cheaper monthly rent. So you see, it's not actually cheating - it's just accurately assessing how much of your income you are actually keeping, and how much of it is going toward sustaining your freelancing.

I think this information is valuable for other freelancers. I will post more specific information as I gain a better understanding of how to file.

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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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