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Vol 17 Number 1 - January 8, 2013

In this Issue:

  • "Welcome" - Dan Case, editor

  • Feature "Tax Tips for Writers: Start Now to Avoid Belly Aches Later" by Beth Fowler

  • 15 Paying Markets - High, Medium, and Low

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Dan Case, editor
editor@writingfordollars.com (put WFD in the subject line)

Tax Tips for Writers:
Start Now to Avoid Belly Aches Later

by Beth Fowler

So how did the run up to April 15 work out for you last year? Did you find yourself digging through piles of receipts trying to separate writers’ association dues from gym membership dues? Did you remember to claim a portion of your electric bills? Did you crunch a bunch of Tums®?

If you are earning dollars by writing, you might be liable for paying federal taxes. If so, make sure you get every dollar back that the government owes you next year. Start now with good recordkeeping and reliable information.

The first thing to determine is whether your writing is a business or a hobby, according to IRS regs. “You’ve heard the saying that a person must ‘walk the walk’ to prove what they say is true. That holds true when you are telling the IRS that you are engaged in a business,” says journalist Tracy Bunner. Many authors start out writing as a hobby and it  later becomes a business and therefore eligible for tax write offs. Visit www.irs.gov and type “business or hobby” in the search field to see if your writing activities and income qualify as a business.

“Business-related mileage is the most neglected tax deduction,” my accountant told me. Keep a notebook in your car or use the Milebug app to record all necessary mileage incurred because you’re a writer. Miles traveled to a library to research a writing project or to a restaurant to meet an interviewee for an article you’re writing are examples of tax deductible miles. If you drive your car for business and personal purposes, only business mileage is tax deductible. Standard deductions rates have changed 11 times since 2004, and sometimes they’ve changed in midyear. For Standard Mileage Rates, go to www.irs.gov. Click “Businesses,” then “Operating a Business,” then “Deducting Expenses.”

Contributions of cash and non-cash items to charities and other nonprofit organizations are tax deductible. Churches, Jaycees, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are some nonprofit groups. Unfortunately, if you run a writing workshop or provide editing services free of charge, for instance, to a nonprofit or charity organization, the value of your time is NOT tax deductible, according to Gail Sessoms who writes about issues important to small business owners and nonprofit organizations.  

Use a separate credit card and checkbook for business. That way, it’ll be easier figuring out which expenses were personal as opposed to business related and therefore tax deductible. Business expenses are the current operating costs of running your business. To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in the field of professional writing. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your profession.

Some typical business expenses for freelance writers include money paid for advertising (web sites, business cards, brochures, ads in magazines); professional services (your accountant’s fee), repairs and maintenance (the geek’s fee for fixing your computer); supplies (paper, toner, pens, pencils), dues and subscriptions related to your freelance writing; and business meals and entertainment incurred as part of your profession. State taxes you’ve paid are deductible on your Federal tax return also.

Hang onto receipts so you don't forget deductible expenses—new laptop, books about writing —incurred over the year and also in the unlikely event an auditor will want proof of expenditures. Keep receipts for seven years. Tax attorney Julian Block, author of Tax Tips for Small Businesses, and of Easy Tax Guide for Writers, Photographers and other Freelancers recommends writing down the purpose of a business meal and other expenses. I write my notes on the receipts.

Writer Dave Johnson says that not using tax preparation software is a big mistake for do-it-yourselfers. “When it comes to taxes, don't go it completely alone. Be sure to rely on commercial tax prep software. If you do, it will drastically reduce the odds of committing common mistakes.”

Tax regulations are ever changing. Congress and the IRS made more than 4,400 changes to the tax code from 2001 through 2010. That’s why hiring a professional tax preparer can be, "one of the best things you could ever do for yourself," Peter Bowerman says (www.wellfedwriter.com). The average person doesn't have the time or the desire to keep current with tax law changes. CPAs know about deductions, rule changes, which receipts and records to keep and are less likely to flub up. Ask other writers to recommend an accountant. Visit TimesUnion.com for tips on finding a tax preparer.

Deduct home office costs. Writers can claim a portion of their homes as a home office if the portion is used exclusively and regularly for business. Exclusively means the area isn’t actually the kids’ playroom with a desk crammed in the corner. Regularly means writing is an on-going business. If the home office meets those criteria, writers can deduct a proportional percent of utility bills, home repairs and other related costs.

The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t make tax laws. Its mission is to manage this belly-acher Uncle Sam brewed up. The IRS tries to help taxpayers with its updated Web site created for small business owners and the self-employed http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/index.html

Russ Wiles, a USA Today journalist writes, “The IRS recently announced that taxpayers made voluntary, timely payments of $2.21trillion in 2006, the most recent year studied. But the agency estimates Americans owed $2.66trillion. Underreported income is the main contributing factor.”

If you’re writing for dollars, get back what’s yours. Don’t pay what you don’t owe. Do pay what you do owe. Leave the Tums® in the medicine cabinet.

© 2013 by Beth Fowler

Get Beth's positively-reviewed travelogue Half Baked in Taiwan at xlibris.com, amazon.com and bookstores.

15 Paying Markets
Updated or added in our database since December 18, 2012

High - Over $500

  • Caribbean Travel & Life - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Seeks nonfiction, columns/departments, fillers, photos/artwork.  Subjects: Vacation, travel, recreational, cultural opportunities of the Caribbean, Bahamas,and Bermuda Islands. 

  • Glimmer Train Stories - Guidelines:  Pays on acceptance.  Accepts simultaneous submissions.  Seeks fiction.  Subjects: Short stories. 

  • NAIFA's Advisor Today - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Seeks nonfiction, columns/departments.  Subjects: Life insurance agents and financial advisors needs. 

  • US Airways Magazine - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Seeks nonfiction, photos/artwork.  Subjects: General interest, personal experience, travel, food, lifestyle, sports. 

  • Wisconsin Trails - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Seeks nonfiction, columns/departments.  Subjects: Wisconson people, history, nature, adventure, lifestyle, arts, theater, crafts, sports, recreation. 

Medium - $125 - $500

  • Apex Magazine - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Seeks fiction, fillers, photos/artwork.  Subjects: Dark SF short fiction and poetry. 

  • Appaloosa Journal - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Seeks nonfiction, photos/artwork.  Subjects: Appaloosa horses. 

  • Slot Tech Magazine - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Seeks nonfiction, photos/artwork.  Subjects: Repair & maint. guide slot machine technicians of all skill levels from beginning to advanced. 

  • Teaching Theatre - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Seeks nonfiction, photos/artwork.  Subjects: Acting, directing, playwriting, or technical theatre. 

  • Vibrant Life - Guidelines:  Pays on acceptance.  Seeks nonfiction, columns/departments, photos/artwork.  Subjects: Physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual balance from a practical, Christian perspective. 

Low - Less than $125

  • The Antigonish Review - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Seeks nonfiction, fiction, columns/departments, fillers.  Subjects: Literary, Essays, interview/profile, book reviews/articles. 

  • Brick - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Accepts simultaneous submissions.  Seeks nonfiction, photos/artwork.  Subjects: Essays, historical, interviews, opinion, travel. 

  • Palabra - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Accepts simultaneous submissions.  Seeks nonfiction, fiction.  Subjects: English, Spanish, Spanglish or any combination of poetry, fiction short plays and more. 

  • Primary Treasure - Guidelines:  Pays on acceptance.  Seeks nonfiction.  Subjects: True Christian stories for children. 

  • Seaways' Ships in Scale - Guidelines:  Pays on publication.  Seeks nonfiction, columns/departments, photos/artwork.  Subjects: Ship modeling, nautical research, shop hints, nautical archaeology. 

More paying markets

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