I don’t know about you, but spring is a stressful time here at Smith Creative Headquarters. We start cranking up the end-of-year activities at school, there are a lot more household duties that clamor for attention, and, of course, it’s tax time. Just once, I’d like to spend the season reveling in the achingly beautiful transition that means spring time in West Virginia. Instead, it seems like it’s frantic hustle from March to May. Well, look out, Ramp Festivals, because this year I want to be present in the spring moments enjoying the (rare) sunshine, not holed up in my office “cipherin'” receipts. If you want to join me in the freedom of marking this yearly milestone off your list, here are a few tax tips for new authors**:
But first, a legal disclaimer:
“Tax-related opinions in any part of this article or website (including any links) are not tax advice. The content is a general explanation of tax law and should not be relied upon for your individual circumstances. Tax advice cannot be provided on a general basis, and must be specifically tailored for each individual by a particular representative. Any website user should seek the advice of an independent tax professional regarding that user’s particular circumstances.”
Get a Receipt Book
Every time you sell a paperback or hardback, write a receipt for your customer. This serves two purposes. The first is to provide a record for you. I know, you think that with all the adrenaline you’re feeling at book signings and events, you’ll be sure to remember who bought what … but you won’t. Trust me, no matter how good your memory is and how deliberate you are about recording your sales in a spreadsheet, you’ll miss something. The receipt book will serve as your back-up memory.
Secondly, your customer will have a paper record to help them reconnect with you next time. They can easily contact you for book orders for gifts. Even if you’ve added them to your email list, some people still prefer paper.
Get a Spreadsheet
There are several tracking spreadsheet templates available online. Just search ‘free spreadsheet for authors’. This is a nice, simple spreadsheet — great for new authors. Find one you like and use it! Even the most attractive spreadsheet is pointless if you forget to fill it in. So set an alarm on your phone each week and add any new entries. Make a weekly appointment with yourself and keep it. That way when tax season rolls around again, you’ll thank yourself — not curse yourself.
Get Some Help
Whether it’s the tax volunteer at your local library, the neighborhood accounting franchise, or your brother who’s a whiz with numbers, give yourself permission to enjoy the gift of help! Often we tell ourselves that we “should” do our taxes on our own, that we’re perfectly capable. It’s true; we are capable. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your time, especially if you’re not playing to your strengths. If you think you can’t afford help, get a friend and brainstorm some ways you can find money in your budget this month to allow yourself to hire an expert. It may be the best gift you’ve ever given yourself.
Get It Done
The more you put it off, the more you’ll dread the task. Start by setting your timer for only five minutes each day. When the alarm sounds, let yourself off the hook for the day and move on to the next item on your to-do list. Even if you’ve waited ’til the last minute and have to go into crisis mode to get your paperwork or tax prep done *in one day*, set the timer for five minutes and alternate between five minutes of focus and five minutes doing something you’d rather do. That way, instead of feeling exhausted and frazzled, you’ll feel like you got away with something! Incentivize finishing the job with rewards like a few pages of the book you’re reading, a flip through a beautiful magazine, or a piece of chocolate.
If it feels like you’re in over your head, take a deep breath and remember: you’re an author! All those years you dreamed of publishing a book probably never included any daydreams of taxes. But this is part of the deal. You did the work of planning, writing, rewriting, and publishing your book, you can do this, too. Play to your strengths, delegate as much as possible, and you’ll reach April 15th with a relieved smile on your face. Congrats, Author!
NOW YOU: Seasoned authors, what are some habits you’ve picked up to make tax time easier?
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