A career as a writer might be your goal, but it usually takes many years of experience before you can begin to make a living at this craft. You don't have to be a published writer to deduct the expenses associated with your writing business, but you'll need to determine whether your writing pursuits are better classified as a career or hobby.
Hobbyist vs. Professional Writing
Many writers write for the sheer love of writing, and you can't deduct expenses associated with a hobby. Instead, the Internal Revenue Service looks for clues that you're trying to make money, even if you haven't done so yet. If you're devoting enough time to the activity to make a profit, actively attempting to solicit business, have a contract for future work or make a profit at least three years out of five, the IRS is more likely to accept that you're a business.
Proving You're a Business
If the IRS questions whether you're a business or a hobbyist, you need to prove you're attempting to make a profit. A separate bank account for your writing income, incorporation, advertising or a list of current clients can help with your documentation. If your business is unprofitable for a year, you won't run into trouble. It's when your business doesn't turn a profit after three years that the IRS begins to take a second look.
Deducting Your Expenses
You can itemize most deductions on Schedule A of your tax returns. If you work another job in addition to your gig as a writer, you can also deduct expenses for this job on the same form. You won't have to attach a receipt for your expenses, but you can't estimate them. Instead, you must give the precise dollar amounts and retain documentation in case you are audited.
Common Writer Deductions
If writing is your profession, you can deduct most expenses associated with running your business. These expenses might include the cost of an office, meaning the portion of your mortgage and utilities that go to your home office. Office supplies, such as pens and pencils; computer supplies, such as software, printers and paper; the cost of traveling to meet clients; and marketing expenses, such as advertising and business cards are all deductible. If you maintain memberships in professional organizations, retain an attorney or accountant or employ other writers, you can also deduct these costs.
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