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Questions about Tax Preparation

Published: 04/02/2019
By: larry

Keri in Witchita asks:

  1. What software or system do you use to keep track of paperwork, taxes, invoices, etc.?
  2. How do you classify your out-of-country editing processing when filing the deduction of that service when there is no W-9 to obtain?
  3. Can you write off mileage on your taxes if you are charging a fee for your mileage?

First of all, a disclaimer: Don't assume that any of the tax advice here is anything more than opinions from other taxpayers.

Here are my opinions:

  1. Here is a very recent post where we reviewed accounting software solutions used by real estate photographers.
  2. My CPA categorizes the money I pay to contractors outside the US as contract labor. I think this makes sense for post-processing work.
  3. My understanding is that you can deduct your mileage as a business expense but it doesn't make sense to me to deduct mileage that you've been repaid for.

Let's hear others opinions.

10 comments on “Questions about Tax Preparation”

  1. 3. Charging a fee for mileage might put you in a tight position but then again, maybe not. I don't charge a fee but base the prices I quote on where the job is. A city further away is quoted a higher price. I also never itemize any item that I am not willing to negotiate. I keep track of my mileage and deduct the per mile amount which is pretty generous when driving a compact car that gets good fuel economy and doesn't need many repairs. Somehow I think they are assuming that you will be driving an F-150 with soft compound tires that need to be replaced twice a year.

    2. When I had a manufacturing company, I purchased parts from around the world and never thought about W-9's or 1099's for them. I issued a purchase order and received an invoice. Ask a CPA/Tax expert, but I believe that if you can show that the vendor was in another country, you'd be fine. It's only going to come up if you're audited. If you are keeping honest books and aren't doing unusual financial maneuverings, the chance of being audited is pretty low. More so if you are working for yourself and not earning hundreds of thousands a year. It could happen, but the IRS realizes that even if they catch you fiddling your taxes, it will cost them more in auditor time/expenses than it's worth. If you are paying for the fuel for the boat, you are fishing for Marlin, not smelt.

    1. AccountEdge. Quickbooks will work in a pinch too. There are plenty of software options and a RE photo business isn't very complicated to track. You could just make a set of folders that correspond to the lines on the tax forms and stuff receipts and income notes in each one and then pull out the adding machine a few times a year. There are no hard and fast requirements from the IRS. You just have to be able to substantiate what you report on your tax filings and make sure you pay quarterly estimates if required.

  2. Regarding mileage charges... I charge $.50 a mile for all my mileage on top of an normal fees. I track that mileage on the same spread sheet I was to track my appointments and billing and expense etc. That is considered adequate mileage tracking by the IRS.

    IRS mileage charges are always more than 50 cents per mile. I include that in revenue for taxes and use the standard per mile deduction for deductible business travel. It's simple. and not a problem at all. The extra pennies per mile or so beyond the 50 cents are considered profit.

    The mileage charges are not included in calculations for sales tax as they are expense reimbursement for legitimate business travel.

  3. It would be rather interesting if you guys can give me an idea of your tax systems in the US and CA.

    Here in Germany, everything which applies to the business is tax deductible.

    I have just completed my returns for 2017. Some may say, that is late but that is the benefit of having it done by an authorised tax accountant and not doing the returns yourself. I just hand over the complete file with all documentation to him and his office looks after the rest. I don't have to lift a finger - just forget it until he returns the tax documentation for my signature. If there is something in the file he cannot follow, he will call me on the phone in order to clarify same. This service is a godsend. Yes, of course he charges for his services but these like all business expenses is tax deductable.

    With reference to mileage, I can enter 0.30 Euro Cents per driven business kilometre this being as a business expense tax deductible. As the car is classed as a business vehicle this does have a down side when I use it privately. I then must reimburse the inland revenue 0.30 Euro Cents per private driven kilometre.

    What is the situation on your side of the big pond?

  4. 1. I use Quickbooks to keep track of paperwork, taxes, invoices, etc.

    2. I agree with Larry about classifying contractors as contract labor.

    3. IMO, you report the money you receive for charging mileage as income and your mileage as an expense. Why wouldn't you? Operating your car for business purposes is an expense. A cabinet maker purchases door hinges to use on a cabinet they are making for the purpose of selling the cabinet. The door hinges are an expense and the sale of the cabinet is income.

  5. I have my accountant do all of this, but...

    In the U.S. at least, if I bill for mileage, I am billing for my TIME to go a long distance. The IRS offers me 51 cents (more or less) a mile for my travel, which is a heck of a deal considering it costs me about half that in actual costs. But if I bill my client mileage, it is just an up-charge to the shoot cost, not an actual mileage breakdown that I account for separately.

    For all my accounting, I use Freshbooks, which allows my accountant access to all my files. I am an LLC and file as an S-corp. He does the rest.

  6. My understanding of mileage is that even if you charge a fee for mileage, that you can still deduct it. The mileage fee has to be included in income for the business, the deduction reflects that you occur an expense driving your car. Just FYI, if any of you are employees, you can no longer deduct mileage even if it is not reimbursed by your employer.

    W-9 are only for individuals, you would not do a W-9 for a corporation. Since this is oversea business, I agree with classifying them as contract labor.

    Sometime I wonder about having the IRS question my mileage. My response would be something like, here is my mileage log, here are photos of both the inside and out of where we went, and here are the photos showing reflections of us at the property. Do you wish to challenge anything???

  7. I have been using Quicken 2007 for years as I run a cash/checkbook based operation. With the latest Mac OS upgrade, this great old bit of software is having some issues but still basically works. I just output a report, lift out all the business expenses and put them into an Excel spread sheet using the same one every year with current simple modifications, then deliver it to our tax preparer who charges about $360 USD to do the return. She is the one who has to buy expensive IRS software and attend seminars to learn how to navigate all the new changes to the tax code.

    I keep track of all business related expenses, keep a milage log for each job and add up the milage at the end of the year for business. If I have an out of town shoot, I just charge more for the job that factors in my time and my auto expenses. I don't like to nickel and dime clients. You can't just think of milage as the cost of gas but of the cost of repairs, new tires, oil changes and depreciation of the vehicle.

    Then there is the square footage and its percentage of your home, if you work from home, that is devoted exclusively to your business like a studio, computer room, storage etc. So you need to keep track of your utilities, property taxes etc. for the tax preparer. I can do this but I can't complete a tax return that addresses it. Much better to help prevent an audit by having someone who does this for a living.

    That being said, I will have to start looking for a new check book based booking keeping software. I don't like the new Quicken suite and now that they seem to insist that it be done using the cloud, I baulk. I want whatever I have to be on my own computer. It is problem enough when the OS updates means you can't use previous editions of your booking software nor open older files. I am trying to keep my older iMac operating just to make sure I can open old bookkeeping and InDesign CS files. So if anyone has something better than Quicken or Quick Books that can be downloaded to your computer that can import old Quicken QIF files I would love to know. iBank does do that, but I did not like the application especially. From what I can tell, iBank, now Banktivity 7, is now also making you store files in the cloud and confusing since it might also require an annual membership fee of $44.99/year in addition to the $70 first purchase. So I think I will continue to limp along with Quicken 2007 with Lion upgrade. Then try to figure out how to configure Excel to do the same thing as my brother does.

  8. If you keep proper track of your income, expenses and capital purchases, your accountant/tax preparer is going to charge you far less than if you just drop off a shoe box full of receipts and a spreadsheet printouts of income. My Chart of Accounts follows the US Schedule C tax form on the top level with sub-categories to break out things that I want to use for my own analysis. It means that I can file my own taxes by just printing out an end of the year report and transcribe the figures directly. Actually, I have to do a little adding since I run and separately track a couple of businesses, but the principle is the same. It's even easier this year with the elimination of a bunch of deductions. I still track them just so I can monitor what I'm spending eating out and things like that.

  9. This is an interesting topic. Due to it, I have just signed up today for the 2019 Quicken which is vastly improved over the 2016 that I bought that I found to be a disaster. 2019 prints out invoices and tracks about everything. It also imports my 2007 files and respects the items and items going back to 1998. 30 day money back if you don't like it. iBank is now Banktivity 7 that will import Quicken files but does not respect all the formatting. Both require an annual fee but with Banktivity 7 you have to plonk down a purchase and pay an annual fee. Quicken is having a 40% off sale through tomorrow making it $30 a year with no additional monthly payments.

    I agree with Ken. Plonking down a shoe box of receipts would be a disastrous approach. Much better to provide your tax preparer with a clean spread sheet. In my misspent youth, I articled myself to an accounting firm in the city of London. An idiotic idea in retrospect but I did at least learn entry systems. I have worked out my spread sheet with my tax preparer. My situation is a little more complicated than just a photo business since I have a number of income sources and often have foreign deductions/expenses as well. So I am happy to leave it to the professionals much as I hope my clients will leave their photography to me. So far they are.

  10. Like Randall I use Freshbooks and keep track of all my invoices and expenses easily. Freshbooks has a great, new accounting feature that enables collaboration with your accountant. Enabling access for your accountant enables them to access reports, categorize expenses and create journal entries. Previously I printed out all the reports and gave them to my accountant. Now I can just give him access and he can print any report(s) he needs.

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