“Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors…and miss.” Robert Heinlein
It’s tax season, and for me that always means the necessary frustration of figuring out what I owe the government on my freelance earnings. (I make enough to have to pay them something, but not enough that I can pay them quarterly throughout the year. Go figure.)
Doing my taxes is made even more interesting because my mother is my accountant. I thank her for her help when I can’t figure out what a capital cost allowance is, and bite my tongue when she chides me for spending so much on reference books.
As a freelancer with a day job and some surprisingly complicated tax scenarios, I’d like to share some key lessons I have learned when it comes to doing my taxes. (Keep in mind, these are my experiences only! Get advice from your accountant or tax preparer, or visit the Canada Revenue Agency website. I am certainly no expert.)
- DO claim your office chair. DO NOT claim your cat’s basket just because it happens to be in your home office and your cat is your muse.
- DO keep track of your costs from that writing conference out west. DO NOT think that you can claim the in-room massage you splurged on the first night.
- DO consider how much of your home is dedicated to your professional activities and for what portion of the day. DO NOT say your whole house is your office just because you write in the kitchen, laundry room or TV room, depending on your mood or where the fridge is.
- DO calculate how much of the costs of your new hardwood floor can be allocated to your home office. DO NOT assume that your accountant will agree with claiming the cost of your mammoth new walk-in closet because your “work clothes” live there.
- DO realize that doing your taxes takes a bit of brain power and elbow grease. DO NOT giggle and say “Oh, I’m no good with math,” so your nebbishly cute tax preparer will give you a break.
- DO file on time and as accurately as possible. DO NOT assume that because you’re not bringing in a big freelance income the feds won’t audit you. The Canada Revenue Agency likes to take a closer look at the self-employed.
I’d love to hear some more tax-related “lessons learned” from our fellow restless writers.