The Ultimate Guide to Graphic Designer Tax Deductions

As a graphic designer, you can save hundreds (even thousands!) of dollars at tax time by deducting business expenses. That’s because every time you write off an expense, you lower your taxable income – putting the money you spend on your business back in your pocket.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

When it comes to deducting business expenses, there are certain regulations you need to follow:

  1. Business expenses must be both ordinary (commonly accepted in your trade) and necessary (helpful and appropriate for your business). The expenses we list below fall into this category.

  2. The IRS requires documentation of any business expense you deduct. That’s why it’s so important to track your expenses during the year. If you didn’t track your expenses last year, don’t worry; our guide shows you how to retroactively find deductible expenses.

  3. Because there’s always a chance you may be audited, save your business receipts for at least three years after you file your taxes.

Graphic Designer Tax Deductions

Here are the 15 graphic designer tax deductions you should keep track of throughout the year:

1. Mileage: Keep track of all your business-related trips! While there are lots of ways to do this (like taking odometer readings before and after trips), the easiest way is to use an app like Stride Tax that records mileage while you drive:

  • Between your home office and meetings (this does not apply if you have a permanent place of work to which you must commute)

  • Between client meetings  

  • On work-related errands

If you choose to take the standard mileage deduction, keep in mind that you cannot deduct individual vehicle expenses like gas, oil changes, car repairs, and car insurance.

2. Home Office: The IRS keeps a close eye on this deduction, so make sure you only write off your office if it’s a dedicated home workspace used solely and regularly for your graphic design business.

Have a home office? You can write it off with either:

  • The simplified option: Multiply the square footage of your office (up to 300 square feet) by the standard rate of $5.

  • The actual expense method: Add up the expenditures related to your home office, including:

    • Direct expenses, such as supplies for and repairs to your office. You can deduct these in full.

    • Indirect expenses, like your mortgage, insurance, and utilities. You’ll divide the total cost of these expenses by the percentage of your home that’s used for business.  

3. Software and Other Subscriptions: You can write-off any software or subscriptions you use to run your business, like:

  • Adobe Creative Cloud, GIMP, Inkscape, etc.

  • Dropbox

  • Project management software

  • Client-sharing software, like Contentshare or Invision

  • Client resource management tools

  • Subscriptions to fonts, graphics, and templates

  • Email accounts

  • Website hosting

4. Physical Supplies: Don’t forget to deduct the cost of any physical tools that help you complete your design projects.

5. Cell Phone Bills: Do you use your phone exclusively for business? You can fully deduct related expenses (including the phone purchase and monthly bills). If you also use your phone for personal reasons, you should only deduct the portion used for business. The best way to do this is to calculate what percentage of your calls were work-related and then claim that percentage of your bill.

6. Business Cards: Designing and printing business cards is a deductible marketing expense.

7. Printing and Copying: Keep your receipt anytime you print or copy work-related materials like marketing flyers, brochures, and office records. Print jobs are deductible!

8. Office Supplies: Items that you buy for everyday office use, like pens, paper, postage, and notepads, are all deductible. Good news: you can still write these off even if you take the simplified home office deduction!

9. Advertising: When you invest in promoting your business, keep track of how much you spend! Online ads, signs, print ads, radio ads, postcards, and more are all deductible. Don’t forget website hosting fees!

10. Parking: Anytime you have to pay for parking while you’re working, save your receipts; these expenses are deductible. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to parking tickets or traffic violations, so drive safely!

11. Tolls: Any toll fees you pay while working are tax deductible as long as they’re not already being reimbursed.

12. Professional development: When you invest in networking and educational opportunities like online courses and webinars, you can deduct related signup fees. This includes education subscriptions such as Lynda.com or Skillshare.

13. Subscriptions: You can write-off the cost of magazines, journals, newsletters, and other subscriptions as long as they are useful for your graphic design business.

14. Memberships: If you belong to associations that help you do your job, like the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts), you can deduct your membership fees.

15. Health Insurance: As long as you don’t get health insurance via a spouse or employer, you can deduct 100 percent of your monthly premiums. Keep in mind that if you receive a government subsidy, you can only write off the amount you pay each month (not the original price of your plan). Note: your health insurance premiums are taken as a personal deduction on Form 1040, NOT deducted as a business expense.

Some Common Expenses You Can’t Deduct

The IRS deems some common expenses as non-deductible. These include:

  • Personal hygiene expenses, like haircuts, clothing that can be reasonably worn outside of work, and dry cleaning (unless it’s for a uniform)

  • Legal violation fees, like parking tickets or court fees

  • Commuting mileage if you work at a permanent office away from home

  • Life insurance premiums when you are the beneficiary, even if you take the policy out to secure a business loan

An Easy Way to Track Your Expenses

Have you tried our free expense tracker? Stride Tax is an app that makes it simpler than ever to find deductible expenses, take pictures of receipts, and automatically record business mileage.

Aly KellerComment