Friday, March 27, 2015

Taxes and the Modern Writer

I don't usually wait so late to do my taxes.  I realize that I could have another few weeks, but usually, I'm done by early March.  Some years, I've been done by mid-February.

My taxes are not complicated--at least, in some ways they aren't complicated.  I don't deduct any part of my house or utility bills as part of my writer's expenses.  My writing is done in the corner of the front bedroom on a desk that's 2 feet by 4 feet--and the desk chair takes a smidge more space--that's not much square footage to deduct.  Plus the space is also used for online teaching.  It just seems like too much of a risk of an audit that would find me wanting in proof.

I do keep track of mileage.  I keep every receipt for every expense--and every meal.  That requires some calculating when it comes to tax time.  Sort the receipts, do the tally of each category--that's the bulk of my tax work as a writer.

I've thought about our taxes as a snapshot of modern life.  If I had been itemizing these expenses a decade or two ago, I'd have more postage expenses to deduct.  Now I do most of my submitting online--and thus, my office supply tally is less than it would have been in previous decades too.

I've thought about our taxes as milestones in other ways too.  This is one of the first years that I don't have several properties to think about.  That makes me sound wealthy, doesn't it?  No, just one of many who had properties they couldn't unload during the downturn. 

We have school expenses for the first time in years.  I hadn't thought about my spouse's tuition and books as deductible, and yet, they are.  They aren't huge expenses, as we pay them throughout the years.  But they add up.

Tax time is a good time to do this kind of assessment.  I go out with writers for a variety of lunches and coffees.  I find it wonderfully supportive.  But when I total all the receipts?  I still think it's worth it, but every year, I'm surprised that I've spent as much as I have.

I think about self-care in all sorts of ways, but I'm not sure I'm protecting future Kristin enough.  I could save more for retirement.  When I'm a little old lady, will I wish that I had spent a bit less on lunches out and wine at the end of the day?

I often talk about what I can and can't afford, and tax time spells it out starkly.  For all of us who think we can't afford a new laptop or a trip to a conference--well, perhaps we could, if we tracked our expenses a bit more carefully.

Or maybe we really cannot.  That's good to know too.  We can ask ourselves about our priorities.  Maybe it's time to think about prioritizing work that pays.  Maybe it's time to think about our career trajectories.  Maybe it's time for some changes.

"April is the cruelest month"--I'm thinking of the T.S. Eliot quote differently today!

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