Nifty Links and Tools For Tax Season (Pay attention, Writers!)

We’re interrupting our regularly scheduled Techie Tuesday program to discuss a topic that most of us detest…Taxes!

I know, I know…I work with accountants – I should LOVE this topic. (I don’t.) I should have my taxes all finished. (I don’t.) I should think money is an interesting topic. (I really, really don’t.)

Shiny Tangent: Here’s what I find interesting in that last paragraph…I used that dirty gut-busting word “should” THREE times. If there’s any word I’d love to ban from the world’s lexicon, it’s “should.”

*back to the dreaded “T” Word*

Taxes and money are just not my happy place. I like to work hard and make money but then I don’t want to touch it, or even really know a whole lot about it. It’s a weakness of mine. Thank God I married my husband, who rocks at it.

However, it’s that time of year again, at least here in America. I don’t care if you’re old, young, liberal or conservative, gay, straight, black, white or brown…EVERYONE is a teensy bit afraid of the IRS.

Here’s how taxes work at my house:

  • I acknowledge that my Hubby is a saint and place my 1099’s tax offerings dead center of his keyboard. I light money candles and make “You Rock My World” t-shirts to drape over his desk shrine.
  • Sometime in January, he begins sending and receiving smoke signals with the accountant. 
  • The first hint I get that they’ve started communicating for the year is when my husband hands me the tax organizer for the current year. (Click here if you need one.)

Note: Hubby does three smart things when he hands me the tax organizer.

  1. He makes a copy beforehand in case I lose mine.
  2. It’s our policy to discuss it on a different  day than when he hands it to me and we set a timer for 20 minutes, because that’s all I can stand.
  3. He starts filling out the organizer before he gives it to me.

The dreaded tax organizer…

The yearly tax organizer is a throbbing scum-sucking mass of guilt as far as I’m concerned. It sits in the corner — alone and verklempt, like a pissed-off Jewish granny from Brooklyn — whizzing guilt-laden messages toward my tax-addled brain:

What? You can’t spend 10 lousy minutes with your tax organizer? Oy! The agony…
I’m just gonna sit here, incomplete. *gusty sigh*
Damn shiksa tax-pansy won’t even check her deductions…

Then that meshuggeneh tax organizer pulls out the big guns:

A nice wife would be responsible and fill me out. Take care of her nice financially organized husband with a little help…or maybe a nice knish.

Eventually, I attack the organizer and fill it out, just to make the guilt stop. I send it back to the shrine of my patient husband, wrapped inside a flaming sheet of invisible hate.

Hubby sends a copy of all our documents AND the organizer to the tax guy, who gets us in for an appointment. Our accountant is a funny little dude named David, who sounds a lot like Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2.

David typically starts off the session with some jokes, I think in an attempt to loosen my white-knuckled grip on the edge of his desk. At the end of our appointment, he tells us whether we’ve done enough withholding or whatever and we write a check to the U.S. Treasury if required.

[The amount of that check is always guaranteed to make me blanch and throw up a little in my mouth.]

Here’s the important things to get from the above description – I’ve learned some pretty hard lessons over my years of being an independent contractor (which is what nearly ALL WRITERS are):

  1. Pay your taxes as close to “on time” as you can to avoid vicious penalties. (Quarterly estimates are the best way to do this.)
  2. File your return on time, even if you can’t pay, to avoid vicious penalties.
  3. The last year has seen an unprecedented number of changes to the tax laws. It is more important than ever to be sure you have an accountant who is up to date on these changes, to avoid vicious penalties. (Are you noticing a pattern here??)

If you are doing your taxes yourself, here are some links that will help: 

Note: Here is a link to a post on the IRS “hot buttons” for Form 1040 in 2011.

 Other great tools:

 Last of all, here are some posts you might find helpful (or at least funny):

Taxes and the Writer by PublishLawyer – it’s older but it gives you a good starting point. This post from Writer’s Digest with Tax Advice for Writers is a bit newer.

By far my favorite person to write about taxes is Chuck Wendig – he discusses the nasty subject every year over at TerribleMinds, his incredibly brilliant blog. Last month, he wrote 25 Financial F*ck-ups Writers Make. Read it and don’t do any of those things!

The Freelancer’s Guide To Taxes that he wrote last year remains my favorite. (p.s. If cursing makes you cranky, DON’T read any of Chuck’s posts.)

Are you an organized soul, like my husband, or more of a Tax Banshee like me? Is this your first year doing taxes as a working writer or are you experienced  at this? (If so, we want TIPS in the comments.) Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Jenny

Contest Update:
If you’ve been reading my Techie Tuesday posts this month, you know I’m giving away spots in a new More Cowbell tribe specifically from the comments in my Triberr blogs. PLUS, I will give the winners a Triberr tutorial via GoToMeeting where we all talk on the phone and do a quick online session about how Triberr works.

Here’s how to enter this contest:

  1. Comment or link back to any of my Triberr posts
  2. I will add your name to the Magic Hat of Triberr Love
  3. I will draw 3 names each time I put up a Triberr post, announcing the winners for the week.

News: As of mid-January, Triberr is now open to all with no invite needed. Any of you that don’t end up in my tribe can still go find and form your own tribes. There are MANY nifty enhancements coming down the Triberr pike right now, especially for WordPress bloggers.

Week 1’s winners were: Nicole Basaraba, Sheila Seabrook and Raelyn Barclay.
Week 2’s winners are: Jessica O’Neal, Marcy Kennedy and Fabio Bueno.
Last week’s winners are: Leanne Shirtliffe, Gloria Richard and Kate Wood. Congrats!

If you didn’t win, don’t fret…there will be more winners picked from the Triberr post next week.🙂

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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56 Responses to Nifty Links and Tools For Tax Season (Pay attention, Writers!)

  1. OMG I near died when I read:
    …wrapped inside a flaming sheet of invisible hate.
    I am sooo using that!!!
    Hubby is my tax guy as well but for some reason, I think it’s more simple in Canada – likely because they take ALL our money UPFRONT. That’s right, about 35% of my pay is chopped off the top so we are pretty much even when March comes around. LOL!!
    GREAT tips and tricks Jenny…woot woot!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Your comments always make me feel like a rockstar, Natalie! Yep, I’d imagine things are simpler when the money comes out up front. Ours does too, to a certain extent, but not when you’re an independent contractor.

      The only people I hate more than the IRS is the California State Franchise Tax Board. They’re ruthless.

      Like

  2. tomwisk says:

    Got a cousin who married an accountant. Does my taxes when I file. I’ve been able to stay below the earned income level for some years now. It’s complicated. All I know is; bring paperwork, sit and try to look interested, sign papers or wait for e-file, smile and say Thanks, repeat when necessary.

    Like

  3. Great information Jenny! This will be my first year as a full-time writer, so I will file these away for definite future use. A topic that few enjoy thinking about, but one that we all must deal with. (Unless we fancy a stay in prison, of course!🙂 ). Great post!😀

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Traci, be sure you read the Red Flags link I put in and engage a good accountant to look over your work. The government needs money and they’ve hired a ton of new auditors.

      Like

  4. Taxes are not my thing either. My husband had always filed using Turbo Tax before we got married, which nearly gave me heart palpitations because he wanted me to part with my accountant. I’m a penny pincher, so I rarely pay for things to be done by someone else if I can do them myself, but do not come between me and my accountant. He comes to my house, and he takes care of all the nasty tax stuff, and I can sleep at night knowing that I didn’t mess up something that will result in huge penalties or an audit. He’s well worth the amount that I pay him🙂

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL…Do not come between me and my accountant. You get far more excited about yours than I do about mine.🙂 Although I’m pretty excited about the ones I work with.

      Like

  5. Laura Drake says:

    Jenny, I know what it took for you to look at this subject long enough to write about it!
    Hey, I’m not laughing – I’m a CFO, but when I took tax in college, and saw the damn tax code book, as thick as a bible, and the pages just as thin, I ran home and told my husband if he expected me to do our taxes after this class, I was changing majors. Right friggin’ now.

    I’m with you – I find a guy who’ll do taxes sexy. When I sought out a husband, that skill was right up there with killing spiders….

    Like

  6. TurboTax and I do the taxes in our house. The folder sits behind me now, niggling at my glee. John sighs each time he passes the nifty folder he’s pulled together for me. He even pats it on occasion. AAARGH!

    Too many snorts in this one to mention, Jenny. It’s a winner! Speaking of winners…

    EEE! I get to be in your tribe. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Like

  7. K.B. Owen says:

    Hi, Jenny! My hubby’s the tax guy, but it causes him no end of time and angst. I always feel so badly for him, but he does a way better job than I ever could. Hey, we’re not in jail yet, right? LOL.

    This will be the first year we will be filing for both of us as independent contractors and deducting those expenses – me as a writer, and him as a game designer (he’s the only one who’s made money at it yet, though). I’m sending him this post, because I know he’ll need all the tips he can get!

    Like

  8. amyshojai says:

    Here’s the biggest tip and most useful one I’ve found. Sleep with your tax guy. *ahem* Okay, so he’s my husband, but he’s also an enrolled agent and the manager of one of the busiest, more successful tax prep franchises in the area. Only thing is, our taxes are almost always filed late after tax season cuz he gets so busy–so he files extensions.

    Oh, another good place to get tax info is http://taxes.about.com/ he’s got articles on about every conceivable circumstance.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oooooh, Amy…that’s a nice shiny tip! I do sleep with my tax guy, kind of, since hubby pulls it all together at our place. Does it count that my Joe Pesci accountant originally WANTED to sleep with me?

      I’ll go hit up the About.com site too. Thanks!🙂

      Like

  9. Taxes. Blarg.

    Like you, the hubster carries the bulk of that burden. Thank goodness.

    Just read Chuck Wendig’s article about F*ck Ups…oh my gosh! Too, too funny!!

    Like

  10. Catherine Johnson says:

    I am so bookmarking this, thanks for the laughs and the useful links!

    Like

  11. Thanks. I needed this. I’m not sure what we can claim, as I’ve sort of become my own brand this year. I guess…the laptop my husband gave me for Christmas. My mother-in-law does our taxes. They’re complicated because my husband owns his own business also. I’ll have to talk to her. I’m sure she’ll have answers also, but thanks for making me think about it because I wasn’t . But we can certainly claim some stuff this year, thanks to writing!

    Like

  12. First of all, congratulations to all the winners!

    In our household, I am the document-keeper, the bill-payer (although the hubby is the one who packs the funds into our bank account), the appointment-setter, and the one who’s patient and scrupulous. I have a tax organizer and dutifully keep it neat throughout the year. When the dreadful time of the tax-filing unpleasantries arrives, the folder comes out, the entries get tallied up and the appointment with our accountant gets set up. Despite having accounting background, I prefer to hire another professional to do the dirty job. I can joke then that I am retired and don’t do taxes anymore🙂

    Like

  13. JENNYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!! I got picked, I got picked! *doing happy dance* I know that you said I don’t need to be invited anymore to join Triberr, but I’m just SO excited! Yay! I can’t wait to get started😛

    Like

  14. …I apologize for dancing all over your Tax post, but I’m very much like you; when anyone mentions things like W-2’s, W-9’s, 1099’s, taxes, IRS ~ I just blank out and go to my happy place. Hubs has to do our taxes by himself, although I do sit next to him and offer moral support. Ok, actually I’m usually lying on the floor begging to be released from the agony of tediousness😛

    Like

  15. Horribly familiar with independent contractor/self-employed tax filing :shudder: Easy years (in other words years where we don’t have any self-employment or moves for jobs, etc.) My Guy does them with Turbo Tax. I do them the rest of the time but I usually have a pro double check before I send anything in.

    Thanks for the links!

    Like

  16. Turbo Tax makes it all so simple. I now pay $40 or so for that instead of the $300 to $400 I used to pay a tax man to do mine. Tax organizer? Hmm . . . What does organize mean?

    Like

  17. Emmie Mears says:

    THANK YOU.

    I will probably owe this year, which I’ve been resigned to for some time now, but I appreciate this post a lot.

    Like

  18. Well, I’ve decided I need a tax organizing hubby. I’m certainly no good at it. I start to get eye twitches around mid-January and it gets worse from there. I know the CPA hates to see me coming. But thankfully they are so sweet and handle it all with patience. Even when I procrastinate to the last possible second. Not doing that this year. Or that’s the plan. Thanks so much for the wonderful links!🙂

    Like

  19. Great post, Jenny! Your blog is one of the few places I know I can go with a heading featuring “taxes” without fear. *whew*

    I incorporated this past year and have had a huge learning curve. Thank goodness for my fab accountant! Even so, I’ve had more “QuickBooks headaches” and blonde moments than I’d like to admit. One book that REALLY helped me is The Money Book for Freelancers http://www.amazon.com/Money-Book-Freelancers-Part-Timers-Self-Employed/dp/0307453669. If any of y’all aren’t sure what to do about savings, retirement and all those nifty things work-from-homers lack, I highly recommend it.

    My next thriller may feature math, numbers or taxes as the antagonist. Can’t get rid of them in REAL life, but…😉

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Your first paragraph made me smile.

      I love the sound of that book. I have to check that out because, despite working with accountants, I’m quite stupid about taxes.🙂

      Like

  20. Can you hear me squee from Canada? Not because we have an extra 15 days to procrastinate (i.e. do our taxes) here, but because I am a winner in your contest!

    Thank you!

    And I do the taxes…this year with an accountant, because it’s the first year I have a writing income, small though it may be.

    Happy Tuesday.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I heard you SQUEEE for sure, Leanne! I’ll be sending your invite tomorrow. And I cannot believe you have two extra weeks to procrastinate on your taxes! Dang, you are lucky.

      Like

  21. This is interesting Jenny. My Hubby is the paper pusher in our house. Hmm. I think we writers are creative and do not use, nor want to use that part of our brain that deals with all things paper. Including taxes. Yuck Jenny. Do we have to? *sighs*

    Though I loved your post today, I was looking forward to another Triberr post because it seems that people in the know, or all the cool people are on Triberr and I still don’t get how it works. Again not a paper or techie person apparently. Well, nobody’s perfect. Oy.🙂

    Like

  22. Taxes is a dirty word in this house. I can’t even let hubby know I’m reading this, but I’ll definitely read Chuck’s post. I didn’t even know I HAD expenses as a writer. Sheesh, I need to get with the program! Won’t hubby be so excited I’m mixing things up with the taxes!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL…yes, Tameri, you have expenses as a writer. If you can prove you are actively seeking publication and have a dedicated writing space, things like organization dues and conference fees can be deducted.🙂

      Like

  23. Debra Kristi says:

    My hubby is also the tax man in our house. I’m seeing a running theme here. Hmm He’s been using the same guy since he was at Paramount. I think he’s older than dirt. But knows all the ins and outs of Hubs biz. Organizing all the paperwork is always a bear. No 10 minute quickie here. Ugh! Loved your descriptions! “Sending up smoke signals.” Haha.

    Like

  24. Marcia says:

    I used to do my own taxes when it was a simple matter. Now my hubs organizes everything for the accountant. All I have to do is give him my business expenses and my property expenses on a house I own. Easy, peasy! Once I have a published book, I expect it to get a little more complicated, so I’m saving this whole post, links and all for next tax season! Thanks, Jenny.

    Like

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  27. Jenny, tax season is scary for me, too. But for different reasons. I’m working at a tax office for the first time. Hence, I dread answering the phone calls while helping my boss with whatever I can and doing what I can to make the clients feel at ease. There’s a line I try to accommodate while I try to do my tasks while answering phone calls (talk about multitasking). The perks? I’m one of the first ones done.

    Like

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