19 Top Tax Deductions for Writers
As a writer, 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:
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.
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.
Because there’s always a chance you may be audited, save your business receipts for at least three years after you file your taxes.
Tax Deductions for Writers
If you’re a writer, here are 19 deductible expenses 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 appointments (this does not apply if you have a permanent place of work to which you must commute)
Between client appointments
On work-related errands, such as picking up supplies
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 writing 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:
4. Professional Development: You can deduct costs for any continuing education classes, conferences (like the American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference), or publishing events (like BookExpo) that help you learn new techniques and improve your business. You can even deduct travel and lodging expenses if you travel to a convention or conference. Meals are deductible when you’re away for business, but only up to 50 percent.
5. Subscriptions: The cost of magazines, journals, newsletters, and other subscriptions that are useful for your writing business (e.g. a magazine to which you want to sell a freelance article) is deductible.
6. Research Expenses: If you invest in books or research for your writing, you can deduct those costs.
7. Outsourcing: The cost of hiring someone to help with your business (e.g. an editor or proofreader) is deductible.
8. Agent Fees: Keep track of any fees your literary agent charges… they’re deductible!
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. Business Cards: Designing and printing business cards is a deductible marketing expense.
12. Submission Fees: From small journal submission fees to larger contest entry charges, all your submission fees are deductible.
13. Printing and Copying: Keep your receipt anytime you print or copy work-related materials like marketing flyers, rough drafts, and office records. Print jobs are deductible!
14. Advertising: When you invest in promoting your business, keep track of how much you spend! Online ads, signs, print ads, videos, website hosting fees, and more are all deductible.
15. Promotional Goodies: If you give away items like bookmarks to help promote your business, keep the receipts… promo goodies are deductible!
16. 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!
17. Tolls: Any toll fees you pay while working are tax deductible as long as they’re not already being reimbursed.
18. Memberships: If you enroll in any memberships, such as to the Science Fiction Writers of America, to help you do your job, you can deduct your dues. This also applies to nonfiction writers and their professional organization memberships.
19. 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.