U.S. Taxes: Things to Keep In Mind, Part One

A guest post by Brenda Lindsey.

You have finally finished that book you dreamed of writing. As you are showing off that first advance check from the publisher, don’t forget about Uncle Sam. He will want to see that check also.

WHERE DO I REPORT MY INCOME?

Yes, even if you don’t receive a 1099 statement from a publisher at the end of the year, you are still legally required to report writing income. Amounts received as income from writing books, including but not limited to advances and royalties, are generally considered self-employment income. The Internal Revenue Service will want to see it reported on your Form 1040, Schedule C. (The exception would be if you are fortunate enough to continue receiving royalties after you have quit writing. In that case the royalties are “passive income” and would be reported on Form 1040, Schedule E.)

In addition to tracking the income you receive, you will also want to keep track of your expenses. A good rule of thumb is any expense that you would not otherwise have if you were not in this business, is a business expense. Items such as the business use of your computer, ink or toner, paper, legal fees, subscriptions and office rent are some examples of ordinary business expenses you might deduct from the income on Schedule C. Other expenses would be things like travel, lodging, and meal expenses for attendance at conventions or seminars. Get receipts for everything, and don’t lose them. Or if you drive to a local book signing or conference, that mileage will be deductible. Make sure you write down the beginning and ending odometer readings as backup for the deduction.

WHAT IF I LOST MONEY?

After deducting all your expenses, you will arrive at your net earnings. If your expenses exceed your income (and they may), then you will have a net loss. Net losses can be used to offset income from other sources. You do not have to have net earnings from your business every year. The rule is if you have net earnings in three out of every five years, the IRS will presume you are in business to make a profit (a requirement to deduct expenses on Schedule C). However, if your business does not have net earnings for three out of every five years, you should be prepared to convince the IRS that you are operating a business and not simply pursuing a hobby. Hobby losses are only deductible on Schedule A as an itemized deduction and have more limitations.

WHAT IS THIS SELF-EMPLOYMENT TAX I’VE HEARD ABOUT?

Net earnings from self-employment are not only subject to income taxes, but they are also subject to self-employment taxes. These “self-employment” taxes are comparable to the Social Security and Medicare withheld as FICA from a “wage-earner’s” paycheck by his employer. The percentage withheld is 7.65% and his employer matches it by paying in another 7.65%, for a total of 15.3%. The employer provides a form to reconcile the withholdings and the match to the IRS.

When you are self-employed, you are your own employer. You must remit the total 15.3% as self-employment taxes. This is reported on your Form 1040, Schedule SE. (There is a cap of $117,000 on the amount of earnings subject to Social Security.) If you forget about self-employment taxes, you may be unpleasantly surprised when you file your income taxes.

(Continued Tomorrow)

Editorial Comment:

The Fictorians are aware that many of our readers are not United States citizens, and consequently conduct their lives and businesses under statutes and regulations that are markedly different from those in the U S A. Most of our posters for this month are American, and the few who aren’t are Canadian, so the perspective in this month’s posts will of necessity be somewhat limited. Nonetheless, if you are one of those readers from somewhere other than North America, as you read of issues in our laws and practices, perhaps they will make you mindful of things you should be aware of in your situations as well.

Guest Writer Bio:
Brenda is a Certified Public Accountant and has over 10 years in public accounting experience, specializing in taxes for small businesses. She is currently the Controller of New Gulf Resources, LLC in Tulsa, OK. She is not a writer, but she is a reader, and she is related to Fictorian David Carrico, so she has a connection with the writing life.

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