Years ago there was an episode on the old Happy Days television sitcom where clean-cut boy next door Richie Cunningham was challenged to a fight by some hoodlum. Richie sought advice from Arthur Fonzarelli (the Fonz) about how to handle the situation, and the advice he got was not to show any fear or nervousness, to look the other guy in the eyes, and talk tough. Fonzie assured him that was all it would take to make his challenger back down.
At the appointed time they met in an alley and Richie followed the advice he had been given. The only problem was, it didn’t work. His opponent was not the least bit intimidated or unnerved. Richie asked for a moment, then went back to Fonzie, who was watching, and asked what he was doing wrong. That’s when Fonzie told him, “Oh, I forgot. For this to work, at least once in your life you actually have to have hit somebody.” I don’t remember how the whole thing worked out, but I do remember Richie telling him that was a big thing to forget to tell him about.
I bring this up because in the blog last week where I talked about getting my taxes done, I said that my accountant tells me that being an author and blogger gives me some advantage, because pretty much anything we do could fall under the heading of research or purchases to further my writing activities.
For example, when we took our trip to Arizona in February, I stopped at bookstores and other places along the way to drop off sample copies of my books and to gather stories for future blog post and ideas that I might include in my books. If I buy a new camera or we have dinner in a restaurant while we are away from home, it’s a business expense.
Ever since then I have received emails from people wanting to know how they can start a blog or start working on a book and write off all of their travel expenses. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. There are a gazillion blogs out there by RVers and other people that are a hobby or a travelogue, but not a business. For the IRS to accept deductions like that you actually have to do something to generate an income from your blogging or writing.
Merely writing in your blog that you went to Gatlinburg does not mean you can write the trip off. Just because you travel in an RV and have a blog does not mean you can write off the cost of the RV. Now, if you have ads on your blog that generate income, that’s another story. But you can’t throw a few affiliate links in your blog and maybe make ten or fifteen bucks a month and expect the IRS to consider you a business and allow you to write off $30,000 in expenses.
In the years we were fulltiming we ran into several people who had seen a website or gone to a seminar on how to write off all of their travels and believed it was true. They always got a rude awakening come tax time.
While it is true that a good accountant like mine can ferret out every possible legal deduction, somebody who just writes things off hoping you will not get caught is doing you a great disservice. The IRS is wise to schemes like that and it could cost you a lot of money and a lot of headaches if you get caught.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t pursue turning your blog or your writing into an income source. If you can, more power to you. But until you can generate enough income to satisfy the tax people that you are a serious business, don’t take any chances.
On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to be in that position, find yourself a good accountant who really understands tax laws as they apply to artists and authors and knows how to advise you to get the most out of your expenses. If you can’t find somebody like that, let me know and I will refer you to mine.
Congratulations Ellen Clark, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Midnight Moonrising by Kristie Haigwood. We had 23 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!
Thought For The Day – A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time.