Deductions, My Dear Watson. Deductions.

When it comes to itemizing writing expenses, leave nothing on the table.

Deductions, My Dear Watson. Deductions.

This election season (is forever a season?) has created a lot of conversation about tax returns. Should presidential candidates release them? Who has? Who hasn’t? What would they tell us about someone running for office?

Personally, I don’t know why we don’t trust our candidates. After all, what could they possibly want to hide from the voters?

Okay, I’m being facetious. Truth is, as a writer for many, many years, I’m very sensitive about the issue. Why? Because I’ve been audited a zillion times. Actually, it was only about four or five. But some of them came at a point in my life (as many journalists can attest) when my salary could have been used to set the bar for the poverty line.

My most recent audit came a few years ago, right after I opined on national TV that I thought the IRS dropped the ball by not catching some big Wall Street crooks while they were stealing billions. It was probably just a coincidence. Happily, not only did I survive the audit, but the Feds eventually accepted more of my writing expenses than I had originally claimed.

I actually asked my accountant if I should apply for a refund. He told me to shut up.

Which brings me to my point: If you’re serious about your writing, you’d better be serious about your expenses.

(Disclaimer: I am not a tax expert. But it is my understanding that people who make money from their writing can deduct certain expenses related to their craft. A tax advisor can explain what those expenses might be, and the Internet can be a wonderful resource for the latest on tax law. The current tax code is approximately the size of Pluto, but, heck, that’s not really a planet, is it?)

I keep track of every cent I spend that can possibly be related to my novels and other writing. Some expenses are obvious. Others are not.

Deductible expenses may include: research-related travel; postage, printing, and fax costs; internet connections for research, promotion (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and general writing-related correspondence; supplies (computers, paper, business cards, promotional materials, e-book readers, etc.); conferences and speeches, and meals and travel related to such; costs related to a “dedicated” home office or space used exclusively for writing; money spent on “entertaining” sources, agents, and potential facilitators; professional editing services; writing software; home and mobile phone calls related to writing; and plenty more.

The fact that I apparently left a lot of acceptable deductions on the table before my last audit should be a cautionary tale. I now believe that you should push the envelope when listing expenses. And don’t forget to deduct the envelope.

Save the receipt, no matter how small. That’s not my advice. It’s my accountant’s. He tells me that he even deducts his jail cell as a home office. (Only kidding.)

Now, deductions for writers may never be as rewarding as, say, those related to real-estate development. But if you want to develop a career as a writer, you’d better take advantage of all those that apply.

Lawrence De Maria, once a Pulitzer-nominated New York Times reporter, has written more than a dozen thriller and mysteries on His most recent thriller, THAWED, is available at ST. AUSTIN’S PRESS (BOOKS BY DE MARIA). There is no truth to the rumor that his fiction writing was inspired by his tax returns.

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