Thursday, March 31, 2011

Taxes: A Valid Excuse

Today's blog post about why this is a very late blog post.  No - waittaminute - Today's - er, tonights? - blog post about major issue of chaos in the life of a professional writer.

Yeah, that sounds better. 

My accountant passed away in February, bless him.  I didn't know this until today.  :(  I found out from his sister-in-law when she returned the calls I'd been leaving on his answering machine.

H-of-A wondered why they hadn't just changed the answering machine.

In one way, that would have sterilized the news; I would have called his brother (taking over the accounts) with my condolences, said a quick prayer, and moved on to make my tax appointment. In another way, a death announcement is more powerful when delivered by another human.  And any death is powerful and deserves that kind of respect.  I'm glad I talked with the human being.

So, I have a meeting in a week and a half for taxes. 

More sobering: I need to finish my tax spread sheets.  I just heard back from one of the publications I write for because I'd found a discrepancy between my math and their 1099 information.  Situation normal for many people I write for.  Sadly.  I should have done this months ago.  Fortunately, the discrepancy was explained, my unsurprising bad, and I don't need to pray for a rush 1099 reissue. 

But Captain, I'm a writer, not a mathematician!

I did my food receipts, too, and one of my other publication clients.  I've got one easy magazine 1099 to review; the editor there is always perfectly accurate, so no worries.

I have not done: 

Mileage.  You have NO idea what a b*tch that is.  Especially since, despite my best intentions, I don't keep track of it through the year, so I have to look at all my receipts and use Google Maps to figure it all out.  That's about 5+ hours of work.

I also have not done:

Travel expenses: plane tickets, bus tickets, parking, tolls, fees, hotel rooms (usually split, so more math)

Office expenses, which is broken down further to:

Services:  Internet (70% of the bill, which is realistically what per cent of my usage is work related), cell phone (another 70%)

Other household expenses because 7% of this house is exclusively my office (7 not 70, no typo):  firewood, oil, electricity, home repairs, yard supplies (because yes, clients come here), Other Stuff (that I don't feel like looking up for a blog post)

Stuff  (By the way, this is paraphrased, not exact to the tax forms or my Spreadsheets of Doom!):  computer equipment, office furniture, postage, books (used for business; I don't have the chutzpah to declare every book I buy as a business expense.  I'd be audited faster than you can say "But, I swear, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Hunger Games are research on my craft!"), Other Stuff (that I don't feel like looking up for a blog post)

And then there's proof of paid memberships to organizations I belong to, donations I've made…

Oh!  And then I need to calculate what I've made in book sales!

You get  the idea.  So help me, God and all that is Holy, imagine if I didn't have my W2 job with taxes taken out and I had to do this quarterly!!  And actually have to make payments!  *gaspfaint! I take out as much as humanly possible from my tutoring job just so I know I'm covered - and I put at least $1000 from my return (which I've gotten each year) towards the following year.

Because I know for damn sure I don't want the government chasing my sorry arse for money!

Those of you considering freelancing, take heed.  Be diligent in paperwork and taxes!  It's taken me years to make these spreadsheets efficient, and I know I still have a ways to go. But after talking with the new accountant, I'm confident he'll be as helpful as his brother was.

Which, as much as I hate doing all this paperwork, does make me a better business person throughout the year.

At least I filed all my receipts and notes well, and I do relatively well in maintaining the income spreadsheets.  (Ok, granted, those include the motivation of git me mah money nao, bee-otch!)

And at some point, when I grow up, I'll actually maintain this throughout the year so that when I'm making enough in writing where I quit the day job - or the day job isn't making enough to cover quarterly taxes - then I won't immediately fall into a trembling fetal position at the potential of having to write a check to Uncle Sam on a quarterly basis.

So, listen up all you writers who want to make a living at writing!  Start learning how to save and organize your receipts now!  Before it's too late!  The End is Near!

And pray for an accountant who will whip you into shape while she or he saves your sorry artistic rear end.

Now, back to this scary pile of MATH I have to do… now under Deadline!


Lindsey Duncan said...

Eeek! Taxes are nasty.

As someone who pays estimates, I prefer it - it's less painful than that massive lump in April. I do get all my income from self-employed sources, no W-2 / withholding.

There are ways you can calculate / pay it so you don't have to sit and do quarterly calculations. F'rinstance, if you pay one hundred percent of tax due for the previous year (split over the quarters), even if you owe at the end of the year, there won't be any penalties.

Trisha Wooldridge said...

Thanks for the info, @Lindsey!

:) As much as I shudder going through this four times a year, it probably would be for the better to get into that habit. And, as I got into it, collectively less work. Right now, with what I withhold and filing jointly with the hubby, we still get a refund, so I haven't had to pay out in a long time.

Thank you for sharing the info! There's always something important to learn - especially when money is involved!

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