Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tax Time is Coming

For freelancers, the end of the year means just one thing: paperwork. Well, paperwork and booze, but I digress. The beginning of tax season can be a confusing prospect if you haven't stayed organized with your paperwork over the past year. If you've never experienced a freelance tax season, here's how it will break down.

Any company that has paid you $600 or more over the course of the year is required to send you a 1099 form detailing the payment amounts. This is of course a simple way of keeping track, but not everyone you earn from will do this. The nature of freelance writing online means that many clients are middlemen who aren't keeping track of the amounts for you and won't be issuing you with a form.

I can think of two clients I've had this year that I have collected a few thousand from but that have never asked me for any tax forms and did not send me a 1099 last year. I'm not sure how that gets reconciled on the client's end, but on the freelancer's end, the records can be kept in any number of ways. The easiest is simply to use PayPal's own record keeping, if you are using PayPal to collect. They have an account history that can be used at the end of the year to see when and how much you have been paid. To make it easier, go through the payments tab to separate your income from the amounts that you've sent to others.

If you have a business license or are incorporated, you may have to fill out separate taxes for your business and your personal income. If you aren't operating under any licensing, the easiest method when you have multiple clients is just to file your income under "miscellaneous" income. This covers it all and is simple to do.

If you have an in-house writing job, take pictures of it. You'll want to keep those memories when the writing gets outsourced along with every other company's writing and PR departments.

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