It’s that time of year again! Time to file our taxes!
First up, you should be reporting all sources of income from your blog. It doesn’t matter whether your blog is just a hobby or your full time job. (More about that at the end.) The IRS wants to know about everything. I previously wrote about monetization, so you might want to swing by that post to jog your memory of different sources of income.
Unless you’re rolling in the dough, like greater than $10 million of average annual gross receipts worth of dough, you’ll be reporting income and expenses using the cash method. So when you receive payment, it’s income. When you pay for something, it’s an expense. Capice?
On the postive side, you can offset your blogging income with blog-related expenses. The following are several examples of blogging expenses. However, if some of these expenses are also used for personal use (like Internet access) you should only deduct the portion that actually relates to blogging. For example, unless you’re a fashion blogger, time spent online shopping shouldn’t be deducted.
Blogging requires the Internet, duh! And while having a blog is fairly inexpensive, there are still some items you can expense:
- Hosting fees through Bluehost or Go Daddy. I’m just on Blogger, so I don’t have hosting fees.
- Domain name registration fees. For example, when I purchased fiscallychic.com
- Internet access fees. This could be your Internet at home, access through your iPad, paid wireless hotspots at the airport, etc.
- Font, photo, or music downloads for your blog. I know of several photography websites that have music playing in the background.
- Your computer, iPad, or iPhone
- Your fancy new camera. Or even your point and shoot. And don’t forget web and hand-held video cameras.
- Software such as Photoshop or TurboTax.
Making it Pretty
You have a computer, the Internet, and a blog. What about making your blog pretty? If you hired someone to create a logo, header, or custom design for your blog, you might have a deduction.
Now that you have a blog, it’s time to get the word out! There are several potentional blogging expenses that relate to promotions:
- Purchasing ad space on another blog.
- Having a self-sponsored giveaway on your blog. Like when I purchased and gave away a $50 gift certificate to One Sydney Road.
- Giving away some of your products or services on another blog. For example, I gave away two pillow covers on Stephanie’s blog.
- SEO services.
Learning, Travel, Meals, and Entertainment
These days, there are all sorts of great blogging conferences and ways to learn about blogging. I went to the Financial Blogger Conference this past year or you may have been to Alt Summit. If so, you can deduct some of the following expenses :
- Blogging conference, e-book, or online class fees. Also keep track of books, magazines, and online subscriptions that relate to your blogging topic.
- Transportation to said blogging conference. Or going to a local blogger meet-up. This could be on a plane, train, or automobile.
- Hotel charges while at said blogging conference.
- 50% of dining charges that relate to your blog. Think about dinners while at a conference, coffee dates, etc.
Did you buy new things for your office? How about getting a new desk, chair, or light? Don’t forget to keep track of the little stuff like business cards, file folders, letterhead, envelopes, Post-it notes, etc.
This is a great blurb I read from 6th Street Design School’s Alt Summit recap: “Caroline Devoy spoke [about tax and accounting for bloggers]. Basically you can write off what you blog about if you feel it is promoting your business or is a business expense. You need to be careful though as to how you label things. Make sure you call them ‘Creative Supplies.’ ”
Here are some other one-off expenses:
- Hiring a photographer for headshots or to take pictures of your products
- Postage to mail invitations to blogger events or to ship items to a giveaway winner.
- Post office box (if you use one solely for your blogging business)
- Professional services. Maybe you hired a lawyer or accountant to create a LLC or file your tax return.
The Bottom Line
The kicker is how much you can deduct. If your blog is just a hobby, losses from blogging may not be used to offset other income (like your full time job). So if you earned $500 through blogging and spent $700 on blogging expenses, you can only net to $0. $500 would be reported as hobby income and $500 would be claimed as an itemized deduction on Schedule A.
But if your blog is considered a business, you can report a net loss on your tax return. Using the example above, you can report a net loss of ($200). Sole proprietors file a Schedule C.
But what’s considered a business by the IRS?
Does the time and effort put into blogging indicate an intention to make a profit? Do you treat your blog like a business? Tracking your income and expenses, creating a separte bank account, and registering as a business are all ways to show your intention of treating your blog as a business
Do you depend on income from your blog?
If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond the your control or did they occur in the start-up phase of your blog? Think about your initial design, domain name registration, purchasing Photoshop, etc.
Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability? For example, have you increased ad prices? Or found other ways to monetize your blog?
Do you or your advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the blog as a successful business? If you write about fashion, are you a stylist? Have you taken additional blogging classes to improve your blog?
Have you made a profit in similar activities in the past?
Does your blog make a profit in some years? The IRS presumes that an activity is carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year.
Can you expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity? In laymen’s terms, are you growing your readership, creating new content, and/or creating new products (like an e-book) related to your blog?
Also, your blog might not be a business on its own, but it might support another business of yours. If you sell a product, your blog might be used as a way to promote that product. So blog related expenses might be part of your overall promotional expenses.
I hope you found this helpful! I know that everybody’s tax situation is different, so you should consult with your accountant or the IRS if you have specific questions. And if you don’t think you’ll be able to file your 2011 taxes by April 17, 2012, you can always file an extension!