Tax Prep for Photographers & Filmmakers

Kate stepping in here to give you a bit of info from the business side of photography & filmmaking, this time about taxes.

Yes, it is that time of year again. If you’re in the ol’ USA and didn’t already know it, the due date for 2010 US Federal taxes has been extended to April 18, 2011.  That may be really great news to anyone scurrying around to finish up taxes at the last minute.  Now, you’ll have all weekend to wrap them up.

As you finalize your return, make sure that you’ve taken advantage of all possible tax deductible expenses, especially those that are a bit esoteric.  Since I am no tax professional, please do not consider this tax advice and check with a tax professional to learn about specific rules and exceptions that will affect your eligibility. However, this list may be a good way to start that conversation:

Tax deductible expenses specific to photographers and filmmakers:

Some deductions are very standard for all small businesses, including business insurance, office supplies, software costs, and even tax preparation fees.  In the world of photography and filmmaking, there are some expenses that are more specific to the industry.  To name a few…. 

Gear Related

  • Camera and lighting equipment
  • Memory cards, hard drives and digital storage
  • Film (if you are old school) and processing fees
  • Repairs and rentals

Business Related

  • Website costs
  • Professional memberships, such as ASMP or ASPP
  • Reference materials – books, magazines
  • Contest entry fees
  • Continuing education courses
  • Copyright registration fees

Production Costs

  • Contractors, including stylists, assistants, models, location scouts, editors
  • Wardrobe and props
  • Permits, location fees or studio rental fees
  • Travel expenses
  • Music licensing fees

Additionally, here are some helpful ideas regarding taxes and tax prep:

  • Think you are due a refund?  File as soon as possible.  The IRS does not pay interest on the money it owes you.
  • Some libraries offer FREE tax form preparation!  Make sure you have all of your paperwork together before you head in for assistance.  This help is usually offered on a first come, first served basis and is only good through the official tax due date.
  • Make use of the FREE resources available to you through the government:  IRS website,  call the IRS toll-free number for assistance or visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.
  • Just need more time to finish?  You can file for an extension but that does NOT give you any extension on paying your tax liability.  That means, you still need to estimate how much you owe and you MUST pay Uncle Sam by Monday.  Then, you can use your six-month extension to prepare your 2010 federal tax return.
  • Any 2010 contributions to retirement funds must be postmarked April 18… no extensions, so make your contributions if you are able.
  • Start organizing your 2011 tax paperwork NOW, and save yourself from any big headaches next year.

Good luck getting those tax returns out!  Here’s hoping that you have a big fat refund check heading your way this year!

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