Tax Tips For The Self-Published Author

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Whether or not you believe the old chestnut that everyone has a book in them, it is undoubtedly true that those who do have many more options these days for getting that book into the world.

If you want to try your hand at the great American novel, a poetry chapbook, a cookbook or a guide to better management techniques, you may want to venture into the world of self-publishing. It will be a lot of work, but you will have complete control over your final product. And if this is your first venture into self-publishing, you will confront all sorts of complexity, not the least of which are the many tax issues to consider.

When you think about the taxes associated with self-publishing a book, it will help to realize that you are essentially combining two functions. First, you are a self-employed author who has created a piece of intellectual property. Second, you are a self-employed publisher who will distribute the finished book to the world at large. These functions are somewhat sequential, but there is bound to be overlap, especially if you plan to write and publish more books.

You may not have thought of writing your book as starting a business in the way that opening a bakery or launching a tech startup would be. While there are differences, it is still important to recognize that you are a business owner to understand how your taxes will work.

When preparing to deal with the tax consequences of your writing, be deliberate in deciding whether writing is a hobby or a true business activity. Even hobbyist writers need to pay tax on any income their writing produces, but the Internal Revenue Service’s “hobby-loss” rules will apply, meaning hobbyist writers can only deduct expenses against writing-related income.

Assuming you treat your writing as more than a hobby, it will be important to substantiate your business activity in case the IRS asks you to prove this stance. There are a variety of ways to demonstrate your intent, which may include keeping business records related to your writing, maintaining a separate checking account for writing-related transactions, keeping track of your advertising and networking efforts, and attending classes to improve your writing-related skills. Freelance writers should report income and expenses on Form 1040 Schedule C, and their profits are subject to self-employment tax.

While no one wants to volunteer for more taxes, categorizing your writing as a for-profit business activity actually offers a substantial benefit. Authors may not show income for multiple years because of the periodic nature of their activities, but unlike hobbyists, their writing expenses can be deducted against other sources of income.

Most authors will be self-employed in a sole proprietorship – an unincorporated venture that the author owns and runs, with no legal distinction between the individual and the business. Unless otherwise stated, this article will assume the author is a sole proprietor.

Many authors forgo creating separate business entities because the liability protection inherent in other structures is generally not pertinent. For authors, most legal risks will be personal in nature, such as accusations of defamation, intellectual property infringement or plagiarism – issues that incorporation will not protect you against in most cases. An author seeking legal protection will typically do better directing funds toward a personal umbrella insurance policy, as long as the policy covers liability arising from business activity. Those seeking extended coverage unavailable in an umbrella policy may consider adding a business liability or, more specifically, a media perils liability policy.

Assuming that you consider your writing a business activity, you will need to be aware of the uniform capitalization rule, sometimes abbreviated as UNICAP. As it relates to creative industries, the rule requires taxpayers engaged in the production or resale of creative property to capitalize certain costs, rather than to deduct them immediately, with some exceptions. This rule initially applied to authors by disallowing current deductions for expenses incurred while writing a book until the finished product began generating income, placing a large burden on authors to properly accumulate all of their expenses and capitalize them over the expected productive life of their books.

However, Congress soon established that authors were not the intended targets of the legislation and exempted “qualified creative expenses” from the rules when they were incurred by freelance writers. This means that while you are a self-employed author, UNICAP does not apply – at least until publishing begins.

It is also important to note that most partnerships and corporations are still subject to UNICAP rules. If your manuscript was written in collaboration with one or more other writers, the IRS may deem your collaboration a partnership, and thus subject to the rules.

Qualified creative expenses are those incurred by a taxpayer in producing a creative property through his or her own efforts, plus some other ordinary business costs. For a writer, these are the expenditures incurred in producing your manuscript, and they are deductible in the year that you incur them, whether or not your business (in this case, your book) produces any income that year.

Possible deductible expenses include travel costs for research, purchased books or publications, business liability insurance, office supplies, advertising or marketing costs, membership fees for the Authors Guild or a variety of other expenditures. Certain expenses are still subject to other sections of the tax code, such as depreciation requirements for a new desk used in your business or the stricter recordkeeping requirements for listed property assets such as computers or cell phones. Deductible creative expenses do not include printing the book itself, however, as this is considered a reproduction and distribution expense.

A final tax consideration before you move on to publishing is the reporting requirements for any freelance help you may have used in finalizing your manuscript. For instance, you may have hired a freelance editor to treat your manuscript or a designer to create a cover before approaching a publishing service. If you pay any independent contractor $600 or more for services, or negotiate a rate of $10 or more in royalties, you will need to ask the freelancer to complete a Form W-9, then issue a 1099-MISC reporting the payments shortly after the close of the year.

It is not always obvious whether contract service expenses are immediately deductible or are capitalized labor costs under cost of goods sold. However, if the expense was incurred while you were in the business of writing a manuscript and the contracted work does not overshadow your own creative contribution to the book, there may be an argument for an immediate deduction.

Tax Preparation & Refunds

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It’s one of the few times we look forward to tax-related tasks, and when it comes to saving versus splurging, CNBC reports that we have a tendency to treat ourselves this time of year. The IRS reports that the average refund is $3,116, which is a good chunk of change whether you want to pay off some bills, save or get yourself something nice.

MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Jonathan Parker says that there’s a lot of needless (but fun) spending happening in households reporting in a survey that they plan to save the money. That’s not to say that these households aren’t saving part of their refund, but it also seems too tempting to get a big check and not spend at least part of it on yourself or family.

Helping the Economy Out

Edward Jones, a financial services company, also has polled those getting refunds and discovered that only 8 percent of people admit to spending their refund on a fun but unnecessary treat for themselves (the key word here is “admit”).

Just over half, 52 percent, said refunds were earmarked for necessities such as household expenses or paying off debt. Another 30 percent say they plan to save, 8 percent want to invest it and just 2 percent weren’t sure yet how they would spend their windfall.

Some people even plan costly events like weddings around tax refund season. In 2015, a couple from Portland, Oregon, planned their destination wedding in Jamaica in early May because they knew friends and family would be flush with tax refunds that time of year. This savvy planning paid off, as the majority of their invitees accepted and spent Uncle Sam’s refund on tropical drinks, souvenirs and of course wedding gifts.

Make More of Your Refund

There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself, especially if you put aside just a small percentage of your refund for something fun. However, those who really struggle with saving or investing can try some strategies to improve fiscal responsibility.

For example, the IRS offers direct deposit of refund checks, and all you need to provide is the bank name, account number and routing number. Choose an account you don’t regularly check or have access to, or open a new savings account and opt out of getting checks or debit cards, and have your refund routed to this account.

CNN Money reports that 80 percent of tax filers get a refund, which means most of us are likely facing the same conundrum right now. Regardless of how small or big your refund, how should you spend it? The majority of those getting a refund (84 percent) make less than $50,000 per year, so a significant refund can make a big impact on paying down debt, saving or investing. Make the most of your refund this year and map out where each dollar will go.

Tax Accountants: How to Choose the Right One

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When tax season rolls around, many businesses recall that they wanted to hire a new accountant, and new businesses are often hit with the sudden realization that they are desperate need of some assistance with their finances. Dealing with business finances on your own can be a nightmare, and can result in businesses missing out on important deductions that could save them a lot of money in the long run. Finding the perfect specialist for the job may take some extra time, but it is important to realize that not all professionals are created equally. Before spending all of your profit just to be left disappointed, take the time to read these tips that will guarantee that you wind up with a tax accountant that is perfect for both you and your business.

Shop Around

When you take the time to shop around, it guarantees that you find an accountant with the experience that you need. Hiring a specialist that is experienced in your area of concern is vital to the success of your business, and can help save you money. For example, you would not want to hire an individual that has limited or no experience in handling business situations if you own your own business, just like you would not hire a professional with no audit experience to handle your audit situation. Experienced professionals are aware of important rules, regulations and deductions that other professionals may not be.

Ask Questions

If an individual is fresh out of school and you are their first client, it is highly unlikely that they will be willing to divulge that information. Inquire about previous clients, issues that they may specialize in, ask for vague examples of previous clients and do not forget about their education. As you ask questions, it may seem a bit like you are interviewing your possible candidates in an effort to find the perfect one to hire, and that is exactly what you are doing. The end result will be the perfect professional for you and your business.

Get to Know Them

Hiring a new accountant is a bit like hiring a person for your wedding. If you hire a professional that you simply do not like or are not comfortable around, for any reason, it will make an already stressful situation much worse. Schedule free consultations when possible, and then use them as an opportunity to get a feel for the person behind the desk. If your personalities are compatible, it will make it easier to delve deep into your situation and work together as a team.

Affordability

Take the cost into account before hiring your next tax accountant. Often, specialists will make vague promises of saving you money on your taxes, and use that as justification for charging more to help you file them in the first place. Unfortunately, these scams do not always, if ever, work out in favor of the business. Be wary of companies that overcharge for their services. If one professional offers similar services at half of the price, it may be a wise idea to give them a chance.

Hiring a new financial specialist at the spur of the moment may seem a bit easier, and it is in the beginning, but the end result may not be as satisfying. Take the time to shop around and get to know the person or company that you may be hiring to make sure that you are hiring a specialist that will be able to help you for years instead of one that will leave you feeling disappointed after just a few months.

Credit Score Comparisons

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Credit scoring seems like it should be a straightforward concept. All of the financial information provided to consumers, however, is confusing. You may see multiple scores and various criteria used by banks, credit card companies, and other lenders. What is your real credit score? Read on for an overview of credit scores and what they mean for the general population.

Scoring methods all generally use statistics and analysis to determine consumer credit payments over time. They are all used by lender and financial institutions to facilitate providing credit, loans, and mortgages to individuals. Payment history, overall debt, number of cards, and other information is used in most scoring models.

The History of Credit Scores

Until the 1970s credit scoring systems were not the prescribed way to determine credit viability. Financial institutions used human metrics such as a personal relationship with the client, body language, and initial conversations. The financiers would often share information across the industry when they had mutual clients. Results were often misleading and financial institutions themselves suffered from loss associated with unreliable consumers.

Equifax, now a big 3 credit bureau, paved the way for future credit information collection as the first company operating with the goal of collecting consumer data. TransUnion followed Equifax in the 1960s. Data collection in the 1960s included irrelevant information about personal habits, vices, and opinions. The level of misinformation and distrust by the general population eventually led to the passing of the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1970, which regulates data collection and circulation of consumer credit information.

FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) is known as the universal credit scoring method. The three main credit bureaus in the US all use FICO scores in their credit reporting documents. More than 80 countries around the world also use FICO information to improve business processes. FICO helps consumers manage credit health around the world through their analytics and reporting information.

The company was founded in 1956 and now 95% of the United States’ largest financial institutions utilize FICO information in day-to-day business. One hundred billion FICO credit scores have been sold since the company began scoring.

FICO began sharing credit information with businesses in the late 1950s when the company began. In 1987 the FICO scores of individuals became more widely available to lending professionals. It wasn’t until 2003, with the passing of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, that credit information was made freely available to consumers once a year.

VantageScore began in 2006 as a collaboration between the three main credit reporting bureaus. Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax developed VantageScore to improve their techniques for analyzing data. The company focuses on accurately providing consumer information in the context of relevant economic data. They are dedicated to finding a solution and standardizing certain consumer data sets across the three bureaus.

The system has been adopted by large financial institutions and lenders as an alternative to FICO. Roughly 10% of the total market uses VantageScore currently. VantageScore “credit report card” is available to consumers for free as of 2013. The consumer market will likely see an increase in the use of VantageScore as a direct competitor of FICO.

Why, if all of this information is regulated and shared throughout the industry, do we receive different scores from each credit reporting agency? The truth is that all of the major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – look at credit information differently. The companies receive your relevant financial information at different times. If a credit card statement hasn’t been paid off when the data is sent to a bureau, your credit score might be impacted by that information.

Financial institutions actually rely on numerous scores to determine their individual criteria for providing credit. FICO, itself, offers more than 50 unique scores. Consumers who receive credit reports only see a selection of information that is determined to be most helpful. These consumer-directed scores are often completely different from the numbers a financial institution will evaluate. They are strictly educational in nature and used to provide consumers with a sense of overall credit worthiness.

Individual companies may also implement their own scoring equations. Ultimately, there may be different scores from FICO, VantageScore, Experian, Equifax, TransUnion, and independent companies. So many numbers floating around makes it difficult for the average consumer to understand which numbers to evaluate for personal finances.

Where to Look

Those looking to get a sense of overall financial standing can look at any of the scoring methods for a reasonable picture. If you are trying to determine how your score will appear to another party, a lender or bank, you may have more difficulty finding accurate information. Ask your lender which scoring method was used for your situation to determine where to find specific numbers associated with a loan or financial inquiry.

Your true, accurate, real credit score will not be found by evaluating one score. The formulas guiding credit scoring vary slightly, giving more or less weight to factors like credit history or outstanding debt. Most of us do not need a 100% accurate credit score. Personal finances and a general understanding of your situation can be attained through any of the major credit scoring companies.

More information

If the credit-scoring methodology is still confusing to you, you’re not alone. The process is full of nuances and statistics that those who are not in the field of finance often find hard to comprehend. Contact credit services and counselors for more information about your unique situation. Consumers sometimes need help determining methods of improving credit scores, as well as contesting inaccurate information that can drive a score down across all scoring models.

Look at credit reports from each of the 3 bureaus at least once a year. Any information that is inaccurate or misleading may need to be addressed by you, the consumer, or a credit repair specialist. Finding a company that specializes in credit law will provide you with peace of mind that your credit score is in the hands of individuals who know what can legally be done to improve your credit score.

Is your bad credit holding you back from getting approved for credit cards, personal loans, auto loans, or the mortgage of your dream home? Are you struggling to make payments, getting denied loans, or even worried that your poor credit may prevent you from getting a job?

We at Park View Credit know how important it is to have the best credit possible. This is why we have helped thousands of Americans repair their credit with effective and affordable credit services. Our guaranteed services are affordable and come with the same level of service as the nation’s leading law firms.

4 Consequences of Having an Overdue Credit Account

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If you’ve ever made a late payment, you’re not alone. According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, roughly 1 in 4 adults don’t always pay their bills on time.

Many Americans struggle with making payments on time in their 20s and 30s, and sometimes this habit can extend far past those age groups. Having an overdue credit account can be damaging to your credit score and to your wallet.

Late Fees

Late payments often results in late fees. Additionally, if you’re near or at your credit limit sometimes a late fee can result in causing your credit account to go over its limit. This can often be more damaging than a late fee to an overdue credit account. Making your payments on time will help you avoid going over your credit limit and also keep more money in your pockets. Late fees are incredibly expensive, costing anywhere from $25 to even a percentage of the balance on your overdue credit account.

Increased Interest Rates

If you miss a payment, sometimes your interest rate can increase. This unintended consequence can cost you thousands depending on the balance on your overdue credit account. The average interest rate for a credit card in the US is 16.05 percent, if you make a late payment your interest rate could easily double. Imagine paying over 30 percent interest on a bill you’re already having trouble paying. This could also raise your balance over its limit costing you even more money.

Lower Credit Score

The heaviest factor in your credit score calculation is your payment history accounting for 35 percent of your total score. It’s also the fastest way to improve or damage your credit score. Even one late payment can drop your score several points, which could come with the consequence of higher insurance rates, being denied for a mortgage or auto loan and even being disqualified for a new job. Another thing to think about is the fact your credit utilization accounts for 30 percent of your overall score. If you’re using more than 30 percent of your overall available credit this could also drastically reduce your score. I know from experience, I was at 32 percent utilization and paid it down to 28 percent. My score went up 31 points by reducing my utilization rate by just four percent.

Account Closure

In cases where you are 60-90 days overdue on your credit account, the creditor could choose to close your account and turn you over to collections. Depending on the type of credit account this could be a serious issue causing a foreclosure on your home a repossession of your vehicle. This is extremely damaging to your credit score and your ability to secure financing in the future.

The best advice I can give you is to call your creditor when you think your payment is going to be late. Sometimes they’ll offer you a grace period or a payment plan to help you get current and stay current on your payments. Life happens and sometimes unexpected situations arise that cause you to make a late payment. Communication is key. Most creditors will appreciate your honesty and work with you.

The Importance of a Credit Report

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Your credit report in combination with your credit score is as important as the air you breathe. Without it, you won’t stand a chance or survive in the United States. To most of the country, you are just a number in conjunction with a credit history. It does not matter whether you are good person, volunteer, lie or cheat. It only matters how responsible you are with your personal finances.

The simplest way to find out about your credit history is to order a copy online. You want a website that provides you with information from the three major credit bureaus;Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. These bureaus analyze your financial decision making; both past and present, and put that information into a report. A good website to use that provides this information is creditchecktotal.com. It only costs $1 to check and can provide you with invaluable information compiled into a credit report. Your report will not only provide your current credit score, but also your entire credit history.

A credit report acts as your credit references. A positive credit history tells potential lenders that you manage your finances well, i.e. borrow money and pay it back in a timely manner. A negative credit history tells lenders you have a difficult time managing your finances and instead are in debt, often not repaying them as agreed.

Credit reports help you by providing you with your personal financial history. This may include attempts at fraud made by others at your expense or errors made by varying lenders. The report can also provide you with information on good or bad decisions you may have made in the past. By staying up-to-date with your financial history, you can ensure you are making good choices, have the ability to detect if someone is committing identity theft and ensure there are no errors.

In addition, a credit report can explain why you were not approved for a certain loan or line of credit. Even though you had a great or excellent credit score, you still had a negative item or charge back on your credit report, so the financial lender refused to approve you.

You can also see how fast your credit score can be transformed. If you go ahead and start repairing your credit, you can watch how fast negative items can be removed and how fast you will gain points putting your score from bad or below 600 to above 700.

If you are not happy with your current FICO score and/or credit history or find there are errors in the report, you can contact a credit repair company. The credit repair company can boost your credit score, remove negative items and/or dispute errors on your behalf.