I’m sitting here, miserably doing my taxes (thank God for Turbo-tax), and searching desperately for a procrastination tool, so I decided to blog about the experience. I love Turbo-Tax. My favorite part is watching the box in the corner that tells you what you owe, or what your rebate will be as you walk through the software. It’s always fun to see it go from red (start writing the check now, and imagine the Mac and cheese the family will live on for the next four months) to green (do you think we could get a new car?). For me, tax time is like running the slots. I never know what will come out. Sometimes it’s three cherries (ka-ching!), and sometimes, it’s two bells and a star (write the painful check, and try not to think of how many starving children in Africa could be fed with your tax dollars, because God knows our legislators are using the funds to study feral hogs in Missouri — that is actually not a joke, I wish it were).
As a side note, I did not consider the ramifications of Sex, Straight Up (with an accountant hero) coming out during tax month, but others have commented on it, and then I realized that the trilogy (hot, Irish-American guys) starts out in March (during St. Patrick’s Day), and you know, those Harlequin people are smart cookies. Funny how sometimes these things happen…. serendipity.
But back to the deathly dullness of taxes. First of all, you should all know that I am an organizer. I have a folder for each year that contains all tax things ever for that year. Last year, I got the bright idea of adding sub-folders for various categories (postage, books, etc), but that really never went over well. So, I suppose I am a quasi-organizer. I try and divvy up receipts by categories, by where do you put the chocolate that you bought for the bookseller luncheon centerpiece? Or, for instance, is the IRS going to frown if I deduct the entire 2007 Nora Roberts collection for “research purposes”? And then I’m faced with the question on the depreciation of my printer. “Can you prove that this printer was used more than 50% for business purposes?” So, I’m wondering, okay, if I come to the IRS office with a stack of my books that were written in the necessary year, can we add up pages, figuring 2 drafts for some books, (3 drafts for the more *eh* troublesome books)? Which got me thinking, what if I wrote stuff with ‘toys’? Are some toys deductible under the heading of research? I mean, how are you going to describe some of these suckers (and I use that word literally, not just metaphorically), if you don’t know what they do? So, the whole idea of deductions is a quandry to me.
So, here’s my strategic tact (which I don’t recommend to anyone): I try and hold back receipts, so in case of an audit, I can whip out the unused receipts from that year and say, “Oh, maybe you can’t use those, but let’s use these instead!” The old bait-and-switch. I have yet to be audited since I’ve been a writer, so I don’t know if this will work. If I do get audited, I’ll report back.
I did get audited when I was 18 –I had worked as a waitress for a restaurant that got audited. I don’t remember much about the experience, but I had no receipts, I had no documentation, I meekly wrote my check out to the IRS, and slunk away, embarassed. Since that time, I have changed to a defensive, rather than offensive strategy. An audit will do that to you.
And another note, for all you writers that get 1099 from your agency’s…. So, you know how your agency receives a check from the publisher, takes their cut, and then writes you another check? Well, guess what? They don’t report your income to the IRS as the amount of those checks they cut you. Oh, no, that would be too clever by far. Instead, they report your income as the amount the publisher sends THEM in your name. And you are expected to remember that you have to DEDUCT the agency commissions as a separate expense item on your Schedule C. I did not know this, but then I received a letter from the IRS telling me that I had reported my 2006 income as XX, while my agency reported my 2006 income as XX++. At first, being naieve, I thought my agency had made a tax paus. But no, they did it correctly. I even called the IRS and asked which should I report as income, my actual monies received, or the amount the agency received in my name before they took the cut. The little man I talked to said I should report actual monies received. HA! Little does the little man at the IRS know. Anyway, I wrote a very polite letter to the IRS explaining my innocence and my ignorance, and how it actually doesn’t affect the bottom line of tax owed. Hopefully the IRS can forgive and forget, but we shall see.
I suppose I have procrastinated long enough. Those million little receipts are whispering my name.