Taxes & Write-Offs for Your Solopreneur or Freelance Business

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In light of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic that's reaching around the world, the U.S. government has extended the deadline to file and pay taxes for individuals and businesses. Taxpayers now have until July 15, 2020, to file their tax returns.

Despite all of the commotion and daily changes, freelancers should ensure they're getting all the tax benefits they can to reduce what they owe.

Running a freelance business comes with a host of expenses — health insurance, purchasing office equipment and self-employment taxes, to name a few. To offset the additional costs of being a solopreneur with an LLC, maxing out allowable tax deductions can help lower your tax burden.

When dealing with taxes as a freelance business owner or solopreneur, here are some common expenses you can write off.

Advertising and Marketing Costs

Expenses related to marketing your freelance business, such as marketing campaigns, business cards, domain names and website hosting and maintenance, can be tax-deductible. If you are doing anything to help get more eyeballs on your freelance business from a marketing and advertising standpoint, be sure to write off these expenses on your taxes.

Travel Associated with Your Freelance Business

Any expenses related to business trips may be deducted from your taxes, including the cost of airfare, transit, accommodations, parking, fuel, mileage and toll fees. Under the Tax Cuts & Jobs Acts (TCJA), you no longer will be able to write off certain travel costs. The IRS designates what deductible travel expenses are allowed on its website.

Meals When Traveling

Meals you had with clients when you were discussing work-related matters (and during business trips) can be deducted up to 50 percent. However, meals you enjoyed solo while working cannot be used as a write-off.

Make sure you document:

  • The date and location of your meal
  • The total cost of your meal
  • The person(s) you dined with and what business was discussed over the meal

Self-Employment Taxes

All businesses including a freelance business need to pay self-employment taxes. The good news is that the 15.3 percent you pay for self-employment taxes can be deducted from your taxes at the end of the year.

Health Insurance Premiums

As a solopreneur and freelance business owner, you can deduct the costs of your health insurance, dental insurance and long-term care policies from your yearly taxes.

Health Savings Account

If you have a health insurance plan that has a high deductible, it’s eligible for a Health Savings Account (HSA). Putting money away into an HSA can help lower your tax burden: The contribution limits in 2019 were $3,500 for an individual and $7,000 for a family. In 2020, the contribution limits got bumped up to $3,550 for an individual and $7,100 for a family (a $50 increase per individual).

Insurance Policies for Your Freelance Business

Insurance policies you purchase to protect your business (i.e., liability, umbrella insurance, errors and omission, etc.) can also help lower your tax burden by applying them to your yearly expenses.

Home Office

If you work out of a space in your home, you can write that off for taxes. There are only two requirements for a home office deduction, explains Katherine Pomerantz, Owner and Chief Bean Counter at the Bookkeeping Artist. The space in your home must be 1) regularly and exclusively used for the business, and it must be 2) the principal place of your business. “If you want to claim a home office deduction, you must NOT use the space for anything else,” cautions Pomerantz.

In other words, working from your dining room table or couch doesn’t make it eligible to be a home office. However, you can count part of a room if there is some sort of partition, like a curtain or a standing screen that separates the business and personal space.

You also can’t count a home office if you have a secondary office somewhere else. An exception might be if you rent a coworking space for meetings. “Since that is a special event, your home is still your primary workspace,” says Pomerantz.

Utilities

If you have a home office, utilities such as water, power, electricity, phone and internet can all be deducted on your taxes. Make sure you take your deduction proportionally: If your home office makes up 10 percent of the square footage of your home, you can only deduct that percentage off your bill for taxes.

Office Supplies, Software and Equipment

Supplies you use for your freelance business such as printer ink, a laptop, office desk, paper, computer monitor, external hard drives, business software and cloud backup software can be used as tax write-offs. That being said, some larger office supplies may need to be deducted through depreciation rather than an all-at-once deduction.

Vehicles and Transportation

If you use a car for business purposes, costs such as gas, registration fees, parking, insurance and repairs can be deducted. One caveat: If you’re using the standard mileage rate for a vehicle, the only other expenses you’ll be able to deduct are parking and toll fees.

If you use public transit such as a bus or train for business reasons, this can be deducted too. Similarly, if you use a bike for the same purposes, you can deduct bike maintenance, repairs and bike-sharing service fees.

Depreciation of Assets

The depreciation of business assets that last longer than a year can also be used to lower your tax burden. Some examples of where this can apply include:

  • A car you use for your business
  • Major office equipment
  • Office furniture
  • Tools
  • Computers

In order to take this deduction, you’ll need to fill out Form 4562: Depreciation and Amortization. If you choose the “expensing deduction,” you’ll be able to deduct the full cost of both new and used assets that you bought that year.

Note that if you use the standard mileage rate for transportation (above), you won’t be able to deduct depreciation of vehicles used for your freelance business — choose one or the other. We recommend checking with a CPA or tax professional if you’re considering whether to depreciate an asset or expense the full purchase amount right away.

Conferences and Networking

Any expenses for professional conferences or networking events can be deducted when you’re self-employed. Note that starting back in 2018, membership dues are no longer tax-deductible.

Education

Any costs toward your continuing education that helps your business, such as a night class at the local college or online certification, can be a tax write-off. Various webinars, online courses and seminars that help you improve your skills and knowledge for your business can be applied as a write-off for your freelance business. If you purchase any books related to your industry or subscribe to any trade publications, they too can be a freelance business write-off.

Professional Services

If you consult a professional, such as a lawyer, accountant, SEO expert or marketing professional for your business, you can write off those expenses on your taxes to lower your tax bill.

Hiring Independent Contractors

Did you hire a WordPress guru to revamp your [freelance business website] or do a full audit of your site? Maybe you paid a graphic designer to design a new logo? Any fees you paid to independent contractors for business services rendered can be deducted from your taxes.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Bank fees and fees incurred when receiving payment from online services (e.g., PayPal, WePay, Stripe) can be deducted for taxes. You can also deduct online subscriptions relating to your work, such as an annual subscription to the AP Stylebook or Chicago Manual of Style. Postage can also be deducted from your taxes. And the gifts you send to clients can be deducted up to $25 per person.

Get Tax Filing Help from Incfile

During this unique and trying time in our country, you don't have to go it alone. We’re here to help. You can speak to a representative at [Incfile’s business tax service] for professional, personalized advice, and even get assistance filing your business taxes.

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