In order to (legally and successfully) deduct your expenses when you travel, you must demonstrate that you are actively engaged in efforts to sell your writing. The IRS will believe you if you do the right things to prove your intentions. The query letter is your best proof that you want to sell your writing and that you are not just indulging a hobby. Even the letters that get rejected and returned to you are proof that you are serious about your profession. So make writing good query letters your priority and good record keeping a habit. If you do both well, you can then deduct your travel expenses and have little to fear from the IRS!
Any business that has sales, will also have expenses. Your travel writing business will not be nearly as successful if you spend all of your time going through tax audits. The IRS will not allow many of your deductions without clear proof that you should actually get them. Being a writer of any kind would be a miserable existence if all you did was fight with the IRS over how much you could deduct. So take this part seriously and you’ll be glad you did. It is super-important to sell your work and have money coming in. It is equally important to be able to easily defend your deductions when the time comes. Save all of your query letters and organize them so you can find what you need.
There are many expenses that you can deduct when you get set up. Writing courses you take are deductible. Supplies that you need are also deductible. You can deduct computers if you use them for business. Hotels and meals are deductible as well. And of course, transportation to the site can be deducted. Just about everything involved in getting there and spending time gathering facts, taking pictures, interviewing people and looking around is an allowable expense. You need to get guidelines to follow from your accountant or the IRS. There are many books that will help you to do the right thing when it comes to your business expenses. A little education on the subject early on can keep you out of trouble later!
As I wrote earlier in this blog, I read the IRS guidelines for deducting travel expenses. However, I couldn’t determine what I would need to know (or do) if I wanted to deduct my expenses from a writing trip. I couldn’t find a clear way to conduct business and properly document my intent to earn a writer’s income. Gordon Burgett’s book answered all of my questions and much more. When you’re dealing with the IRS, you don’t want to go into a business without having a clear idea of what you will need to do to stay out of the IRS’s way.
The Travel Writer’s Guide is an invaluable reference for the budding travel writer. I highly recommend that you get a copy for yourself and get smart on this subject and many others you’ll need to know about. You’ll be glad you did, since you won’t feel lost in the wilderness any more (like I did when I first started exploring the field of travel writing).
Do you have any personal stories of expenses and taxes? I’d really like to hear from people who also need to keep accurate records. How do you do it? What advice can you offer?
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