The Organized Writer: Taxes

by Jeff Abbott on March 4, 2009

You would think with all my research into money laundering for my books, tax season would be a snap for me. Wrong. It’s the one time of the year I get all cozy with Excel and tottering piles of receipts. I usually get about five paper cuts in March.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. I just handed off all my tax information for the year to my accountant. There is no way that I could do my own taxes but each year it chews up at least a day’s worth of time to prepare all my records so the accountant (who is brilliant) can prepare the return.

None of the following can be construed as tax advice, but here’s what I think every writer should do:
–keep file folders for your receipts, grouped by type of expense (shipping, supplies, equipment, travel). Don’t just dump it all in a shoebox and hand it over to the CPA or the tax preparer (yes, I have heard of writers doing this). 
–prepare a spreadsheet of your expenses that you can share with the accountant. This gives you a good idea of what you spent your money on this year. I can track from year to year what I spent on various expenses. It also makes sure that I’m tracking down every expense. Don’t forget to check your checkbook and credit card statements against your receipts to be sure you have a complete accounting of your expenses.
–set aside time to work on this and get it done in one fell swoop, as much as you can. It’s hard, at least for me, to fully focus on writing when this is hanging over my head.
–one of the reasons I’m happy with the literary agency that represents me is that they give me very good detailed forms on income, expenses, commissions, etc. Other agents–not so much. They might give you all the info, but it’s up to you to interpret it or tame it into something useful to share with your accountant. I’m lucky in this regard. 
Again, I’m not qualified to give tax advice (so don’t ask me for any, please), but a bit of organization and preparation throughout the year can make the process much less painful.

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