A Freelance Writer’s Tax Story

in Business of Writing,Classes for Writers

Something that doesn’t appear in my freelance writing resume is the fact that for years I worked with my father selling real estate investments and tax shelters.

One day I went with my father while he attempted to sell a tax shelter to the richest man we knew. Although that gentleman did buy property from time to time, his comment that day was “bring me the money – I’ll worry about the taxes later.”

Truth be told, that’s sort of my attitude too, or it was for a long time. Even as my freelance writing business grew I did my best to ignore taxes until I had to do something, then I did it in a panic and with my fingers crossed.

Finally, as part of my commitment to my writing as a business, I got my income tax life together.

I almost didn’t.

One truth about me is I don’t add and subtract reliably. Give me a long column of figures and a calculator, even with a tape, and I’ll come up with a slightly different answer every time. 

In spite of that strange lack of ability, I learned how to track my income and expenses.


Another truth is I find our US Tax Forms and the instructions that come with them impossible to understand – worse than that, they are boring in the extreme. I’m sure I could write their manuals in a way that would make them more understandable – but I’m not at all sure I could stand to listen to the explanations.

Even when I can make myself read them I still find myself confused and pretty certain I’m going to do it wrong. Which is why every year I’m willing to pay a professional to do my taxes – but that doesn’t mean I’m not curious about them.

I’m actually looking forward to our the tax-savings webinar we’re doing with a real expert as part of the webinars offered by About Writing Squared. It’s very possible I’ll learn something or several somethings I can take to my own tax preparer and save myself some money.

It’s pretty amazing, at least to me, that my attitude toward income tax has shifted from avoidance to curiosity. Who know, I may finally be growing up.

What’s your relationship and attitude with taxes? How has it changed over time?

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Would coaching help?

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucy Smith October 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I have to confess, I don’t fully understand how taxes work. But I live with the son of an accountant, and said accountant also does my accounts. Pretty much, I provision. Every single time money comes in, I take out a certain percentage to cover my own tax and the GST (like sales tax). That goes into a separate account, and when the notice comes in I pay it from there. And if it turns out at the end of the year that I over-provisioned…woohoo!

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annew October 9, 2012 at 7:42 am

Hah! sounds like you understand more than you know…

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Lucy Smith October 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Well, I understand enough to know that the IRD won’t just go ‘oh, all right then, just pay us when you can’ if you find you haven’t provisioned properly ;-)
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annew October 10, 2012 at 11:51 am

Do you hire a pro in nz?

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annew October 10, 2012 at 11:56 am

And a great article on marketing, Lucy.

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Lucy Smith October 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Yeah, I do have an accountant. I wouldn’t ever try to do all my own accounts, so I just punch the numbers into my accounting software and let him handle the rest!

Thanks re: blog post, it was a scary couple of days but at least I got to learn something from it!
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Amandah October 5, 2012 at 5:45 am

Since I have an accounting background, I appreciate tax season and the many CPAs who hunker down and get the job done. Yes, I worked many weekends both in the private and public sector.

I don’t know why people freak out about taxes. If you’ve lived in the U.S. all of your life, it shouldn’t be a surprise that your tax returns are due on or before April 15. Of course, you can file an extension, but you have to pay your taxes.

I agree that the verbiage can be simplified, but many cities offer free tax preparation (must qualify for it) most of which are prepared by seasoned and retired CPAs.

And…If you have a small business, don’t stress out about taxes. Hire a reputable CPA to prepare your forms. Please make sure you have all of the necessary documents. :)
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annew October 9, 2012 at 7:36 am

Amandah, I think the reason so many freak out in the US is the IRS has built up a scary image through well publicized prosecution of tax dodgers and other miscreants. So fear filters down.

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