Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dreaded Income Tax - What's an Author To Do? By Morgan Mandel

I'm not a number person. I do much better with words. I used to be very diligent about keeping track of the checkbook, marking down deposits and withdrawals, and all that sort of thing, but somehow this year, just like last year, it all got away from me.

Part of the problem, but really not a good excuse, is the way I get my paychecks - direct deposit. This method is very convenient. I don't have to go to the bank to cash my check and deposit the money. By magic, somehow it gets there by itself. I only need to go once in a while to an ATM, punch some buttons and, like a slot machine that pays (there are a few), money comes spitting out.

When I actually had to go to the bank, I kept really good track of things. Now, because everything is so convenient, I tend to ignore the aspects I should be keeping track of. I forget to record the deposits, even though I get a slip at work saying what they are. I forget to mark when I take money from the ATM.

Thank goodness, I at least remember to record the checks or I'd really be in trouble.

So, anyway, that's one part of my income tax fiasco problem. Another is the fact I haven't balanced the checkbook since last income tax time. As long as the ATM receipt shows I have money, I put off keeping track of the hows and whats about it.

Another part of my income tax problem is I itemize. Not only that, I deduct writing expenses. Being the non-meticulous with figures person that I am, I've thrown all my receipts and copies of e-mails about orders and writing relating services and goods into one overflowing envelope, where I've also thrown in the real estate tax receipts and other goodies that need to be itemized.

Now is the time to go through the giant mess. Now's the time I have to sort through it all and get it ready. I've only got until March 22 to get it done. That's when my tax person will meet with me. If it's not organized, it will mean more money to pay her, so I've got to do it.

Here are some of the expenses I deduct: writing organization dues, conference fees, how-to books about writing, writing magazines, paper, printer cartridges, pens, memory cards, promo items, such as postcards, bookmarks, business cards, brochures, postage for mailing books for reviews, postage for mailing the postcards to all and sundry. These are the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure once I delve into my folder, I'll find tons more.

Anyway, if you're a writer and not itemizing your writing expenses you may want to consider doing so. The process is painful, but worthwhile. I'm always surprised how much money I spend every year on my writing career. The upside is keeping these receipts and making sense of them means getting money back I can use again the next year to buy goods and services so I can start the cycle again. It's already March and I've been stuffing it all in a special folder like I usually do. Some day, I'll learn to keep track as I go along - well, maybe not.

Time to go through that folder now.
Morgan Mandel

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