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Productivity 501

By Mark Shead

101 Tax deductions for bloggers and freelancers

By Paul MichaelAnyone here like doing taxes? Didn’t think so. We all have to do them; we all have to pay money to Uncle Sam (although some get away with paying much less than others).  But as a freelancer and/or a blogger, are you overlooking dozens of legitimate deductions that could save you a whole lot of money?
I own a small business (very small, it’s just me) and it basically involves doing some writing for advertising, marketing, the web and of course, blogging. None of this will ever replace my full-time career, but it does eat up various costs that my accountant has told me I can deduct from my taxes. And when I looked into it further, I found not just a handful of possible deductions, but a veritable smorgasbord.

Here are the expenses you should look into deducting if you’re a blogger and/or freelancer, assuming they apply to your chosen blogging or freelancing field (you can’t deduct movie tickets if you have no reason to be at the movies…but if you have a blog all about movies and reviews, go for it).

As always, you need proof of this stuff. No good saying you bought 50 magazines last year if you can’t find the receipts. With the government hemorrhaging money, they’re looking for any opportunity to keep as much of your cash as they can. In the event of an audit (aaarggghhh) you want your finances to be watertight.

It’s also worth noting that your expenses shouldn’t really outweigh your income (although sometimes it's inevitable in your first year of business, taking into account start-up costs and so forth). But, if you made $1500 from your blogging adventures, writing off a $3500 computer system may trigger a big bad red flag. The IRS doesn't like it when you spend more than you make.  And if in doubt, double check with an accountant.

Industry books & periodicals, including audio books
Other books and periodicals used for research
Library book charges
DVDs and CDs related to your blogging
Movie or theater tickets, if related to your blogging or freelancing
Music and TV show downloads
Magazine subscriptions
Research sites that require a subscription
Further education classes
Webinars
Business podcasts
Business-related websites (for me, that would be Adweek)
Memberships to professional clubs and affiliations
Internet access fees (at about $40 a month, that’s a biggie)
Public internet access fees (Internet café’s, airports etc)
Stock photo purchases for your blog
Search Engine Optimization services and fees
Paid site submissions
Website hosting fees
Website design and/or maintenance fees
Website/blog templates
Domain name cost(s) and renewals
Blog expenses (e.g. WordPress additions)
Film & Digital cameras
Web cameras
Handheld video recorders
Digital memory cards
Recordable CDs and DVDs
Zip drives
Photo printouts
Film & film processing
Printer ink and copier toner
Phone charging stations (e.g. at the airport)
Second phone line for your business/fax machine
Long distance charges related to business
Cost of phone/fax/scanner/copier equipment
Cell phone & PDA expenses (bills, equipment, accessories)
Personal voice recorders and memo machines
Business equipment rental
Computer equipment & peripherals
Computer upgrades (I had to upgrade my RAM twice last year)
Depreciation costs of computer equipment
Data storage (both online and external HDDs)
Any business related software (not games…unless you review them)
Software licensing fees
Anti-virus and anti-spam subscriptions
Unpaid invoices. If you do some work for someone, be it a simple blog article or a much bigger job, and you get stiffed on the bill, you can write off your loss.
Fees for other bloggers and freelancers. If you get overwhelmed and pay a friend or relative to help out, any money you pay that person for their assistance is a tax deduction.
Tax and accounting software
Tax preparation fees
Business incorporation costs
Costs for Trademarks or Copyrights.
Business logos and graphic design fees
Business cards, letterhead and other stationery (even stuff you print yourself)
Office supplies (everything from paper to paper clips)
Home office expenses. You can deduct the part of your home you use exclusively for blogging or freelancing as an expense, including a portion of the rent, water, heating bills and so on.
Percentage of your home insurance (for your home office)
Online self-promotion fees (that includes banners and Adwords costs)
Trade show fees
Advertising costs (newspapers, stickers, posters, postcards etc)
Photography fees (e.g. headshots, pack shots etc)
Photocopying/faxing fees
Transportation costs: car mileage; airline tickets; taxis; buses; trains.
Highway tolls
Parking fees
Hotel costs for business trips.
Cleaning & laundering services when traveling for business.
Costs of conferences, plus all related expenses (e.g. BlogHer)
Health insurance costs (if you’re self-employed)
Computer equipment insurance
Food and drink purchased on business trips
Client entertainment (be reasonable…not sure you’ll get away with Strip Club deductions)
Postage costs (Stamps.com is ideal for keeping track of postage, and the service itself is tax-deductible)
PayPal and Western Union fees
Post Office Box fees.
Safe Deposit Box fees.
Self-storage fees, especially useful if your files and records are spilling over into your garage and you need extra space.
Advice. Any professional advice you pay for that pertains to your business is a tax deduction, and that includes counseling or coaching.
Membership dues to labor unions (do bloggers have a union?)
Charity work or donations (this one’s tricky. It’s limited to your out-of-pocket costs, not the final cost of the product. In my case, I’ve done some writing for charity, which is not applicable because you can’t deduct time spent. But any materials used during your charity work can be deducted).
Prizes and giveaways. Here at Wise Bread, we give away some very nice things. Often, they are generously given to us as gifts to pass on to you, or readers. But when we go out and spend money on a prize to give away, that can be deducted, as well as the cost to mail it out to you.
Business furniture. If you use it exclusively for your blogging or freelancing, then anything from a chair or filing cabinet to the whole desk can be written off.
Business functions. If you hold a little get-together for clients, even just one or two, then everything from the rental of the room (or golf course…know what I mean?) to food and drink can be deducted.
Business lunches. You can't include your own meal, but if you pick up the tab at a power-lunch (or just a meeting with a potential client) you can write off their part of the check.
Props. I sometimes use props for photoshoots, and the cost of those props can be deducted.
Job search expenses. Any money you spend trying to get work, from postage to travel, is a deductible expense.
Alcohol and drug abuse treatment. If the pressure turns you into a Betty Ford patient, you can deduct the expenses of treatment. Let’s hope you never have to though.
Any losses due to theft. Away on business, your laptop gets stolen…write it off.
Moving expenses related to your blogging or freelancing.
You can deduct 50% of your self-employment tax
Home improvements. Turn the basement into a home office, those expenses are deductible.
Clothing and accessories. If you have to buy any clothing for a particular job (maybe you needed protective clothing & headwear to write an article about a building site) then those costs are also deductible. But don’t try and write off your new Gucci watch.
Business checking expenses. If you have anything more that free checking, it’s a deduction.
Business gifts. This is cool. If your mom watched the kids while you went off to do an interview or write an article, and you then bought her flowers or choccies, well, the gift is tax deductible. Very sweet.
Annual fees for business credit cards.
Physical therapy. Writing for eight hours a day can cause all sorts of problems, including the dreaded Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. I've been advised by many accountants that you can deduct the cost of that therapy. However, medical expenses are a complex beast, and usually need to be a percentage of your income. Check with your accountant for details.
Headache pills, eye drops and so on. If staring at the screen all day gives you a killer migraine, you can write off the cost of the meds to help you get through it and keep on working.
Wages. Say you pay your kid $20 a month to empty your office trash can, maybe as a way to earn an allowance. Well, you can deduct that expense.
Your dog. No kidding, if you can prove it's a guard dog and is protecting your equipment, you can write-off the doggie expenses.
Net operating loss. If your deductions outweigh your earnings, which often happens in your start-up year, you can use that loss to lower your taxes next year.

And one big final deduction you may want to think about:

Your TV cable or satellite bill. I can deduct it because I need it…I work in the movie business. It’s a very nice deduction, too. If you blog about soaps, movies, TV shows, or anything else in the entertainment field, this could be a nice write-off for you.

It's a big list, but even if only 25% of it applies to you, it could add up to a nice chunk of cash back in your pocket. And before I get chastised, I'm not against paying taxes. But when corporations are finding ways to jump through every legal loophole and pay almost no federal tax, I don't think it hurts you to take the legitimate tax deductions on the table.

Go stake your claim.  
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