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Filing Taxes as a Freelance Writer

Updated on February 2, 2016

If this is your first year filing taxes as a freelance writer, you may have some questions about what can be claimed as a deduction, what you have to claim for income, and which forms you need to fill out. If you were previously an employee for another company, this year’s filing is going to be different from what you are used to. Unless you have elected to incorporate, you will be filing as a sole-proprietor. Sole-proprietorship comes with more paperwork than being an employee for someone else. This guide will help you prepare to figure your taxes as a freelancer using home and business tax software.

Gather Your Paperwork

You will likely receive a form 1099 from each company for which you did freelance work. The 1099 is a statement of your earnings for the previous year. You should receive this by the beginning of February. Keep in mind, as a freelancer, you are responsible for tracking your earnings. Even if a company that you worked for fails to send you a 1099, you still have to claim the amount earned on your taxes. Each penny you make through the year should be properly tracked and recorded.

Beyond your 1099’s, you will also need to gather all receipts for the year. What does she mean by all receipts, you ask? This means every single receipt that you have for the year as long as it somehow pertains to your freelancing career. You will deduct only the items paid that were used for business.

  • If you went to Walmart, picked up groceries and grabbed a pack of mouse pads (used for business), you will need the receipt.
  • If you have a home office dedicated to work, you will need copies of all bills pertaining to the use of your home.
  • If you freelance for a local paper and you took the school principal out to lunch for an interview, you will need the receipt.
  • If you ran to the gas station to pick up milk, but decided to grab a pen (used for freelancing) while you were out; you guessed it—you need the receipt.

Outside of saving folders worth of receipts, you should have also been tracking any mileage used to meet people for interviews, pick up supplies, and run to the post office (remember, the day you sent out your manuscript!).

Get Ready to Type

Okay, paperwork is gathered, tax software is inserted and you are in the mindset to get these taxes over with. Turn on your software and follow the on-screen instructions. Most programs start with instructions to enter your name, address, phone number, social security information and filing status, as well as the information for your spouse (if applicable). Once this is complete, the software will want to know of you have W-2’s, 1099’s or any other forms indication income. Mark the appropriate boxes. Continue with the software as you normally would when filing a regular 1040.

When the software comes to the schedule C, you will start seeing questions about your deductions. Anything that you bought specifically for business use can be deducted. This could include a computer, printer, ink, paper, pens, notebooks, dictation software, word processing software, and even the desk calendar you purchased to track your deadlines.

The tax software will ask if you used a home office. The answer is yes if you used the office only for business purposes. If so, you need to know the square footage of your entire home, along with the square footage of your office. Take these numbers and find what percentage of your entire home the office comprises. This is the percentage of utility bills and real estate taxes that you will deduct as business expenses.

Be sure to thoroughly read each question presented by the software. If you have questions or you are not sure what your answer should be, consult the help section. Additional information can be found at IRS.gov. Don’t fear tax time; it is not that bad. Thanks to programs like TurboTax and TaxCut, doing your taxes can actually be fun!

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