Tax tips for writers by Caroline Woodward

I have the fond­est memory of my Dad hol­ing up in the base­ment, from which a cloud of blue smoke and col­our­ful pro­fan­it­ies waf­ted up for sev­er­al days. It was in­come tax time and Dad went head to head with the Prime Minister of the day, de­term­ined not to pay “that bloody .…..” or “that smarmy .…” a cent more than ab­so­lutely ne­ces­sary to keep the Canadian safety net shipshape.

Do you keep your re­ceipts in a shoe box? Caroline has a bet­ter idea.

Since 1981, I’ve filed my in­come taxes as a writer, thanks to hop­ping off the ca­reer lad­der and lug­ging home 1,500 rice pa­per fables that I made in Kathmandu, Nepal. Writers are al­lowed three to five years to pro­duce a nov­el and to earn zero in­come while rack­ing up re­search and travel expenses.

I am proud to say I man­aged to earn more than zero from selling my writ­ing every single year since 1981 but some years, es­pe­cially those fif­teen years when we ran a book­store and when I worked as a pub­lish­ers’ rep, it was a minor mir­acle for me to write a gro­cery list let alone a haiku or to sell a single bon mot.

But if we writers don’t take our work ser­i­ously, then we will be hob­by­ists forever more and the fact is, a great many of us donate hun­dreds of hours and dol­lars to our com­munit­ies and the causes of the world annually.

You can be very sure that the Prime Minister’s min­ions will seek you out and pick your pock­ets when your next book is a best­seller and that they don’t much care if you took an eight­een year ap­pren­tice­ship at very low ‘wages’ to be­come an overnight success.

I’ve used the same one-page format to re­port my writ­ing ex­penses and in­come since 1981. I ig­nore the reams of forms provided for pro­fes­sion­al and small busi­ness people and so far, the Prime Minister has merely sighed and ac­cep­ted my puny efforts.

Here it is:
2010 Writing Income & Expenses
Caroline Hendrika Woodward
Social Insurance Number

Expenses

Advertising/Promotion…………………….$x
(web­site, au­thor pho­tos, schmooz­ing costs at ½ the meal or pub bill. Sadly, not for new shoes to wear when launch­ing your latest book)

Automobile Expenses………………………$y
(get­ting your­self to read­ing tours, work­shops, etc. Fuel, re­pairs, in­sur­ance, park­ing. Keep a mileage log & yes, claim every trip to and from the Post Office)

Office Expenses-ph/­fax/in­ter­net………… $z
(straight­for­ward)

Other Office Expenses & Materials……  $x
(magazine sub­scrip­tions, sta­tion­ery, books, a de­cent chair, book­shelves, computer)

Light/​Heat/​Water…………………………… $y
(if you live in a 5 room house with a one room of­fice, claim 15 your an­nu­al costs)

Travel, ex­clud­ing auto………………………$z
(bus, plane, hotel & meals for writ­ing gigs not covered by pub­lish­er or hosts)

Office Rent…………………………………… $x
(if you rent a sep­ar­ate of­fice, oth­er­wise, claim 15 (or whatever) of your house­hold rent or mort­gage payments)

Capital Cost Allowance………………………$y
(see guide, I used this once in the 80’s to de­pre­ci­ate the cost of a new com­puter but am no longer a re­li­able guide to this category)

TOTAL…$xyz

2010 Writing Income……………………………$not nearly enough
Net Loss………………………………………… (-$ sigh, net loss again-bo­nus, it can be ap­plied to re­duce your re­spect­able in­come as a brick­lay­er, light­keep­er, ranch hand or writ­ing teacher)

ALL RECEIPTS HELD.

_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​                     _​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​
Caroline H. Woodward                           Date

During this hum­bling pro­cess, I of­fer up thanks to the de­term­ined writers who lob­bied for the Public Lending Right so that lib­rary us­age of our books is com­pensated for, ditto for the Canadian Access Copyright group who pay us for our work be­ing used in schools and uni­ver­sit­ies and elsewhere.

In memory of Dad, I curse Stephen Harper with gusto and with good reas­on. And every year, I look long and hard at the de­scrip­tion of the Vow of Perpetual Poverty. There but for the wimple, go I.

Two things: keep every re­ceipt in tidy en­vel­opes for sev­en years and be scru­pu­lously hon­est (the karma thing). Also, try fil­ing on­line. I just got my 2010 re­turn de­pos­ited in my Credit Union in sev­en busi­ness days flat. Hurrah for new­fangled thingeybobs!

One Reply to “Tax tips for writers by Caroline Woodward”

  1. What a great take on taxes! I nev­er thought I’d read the T word and laugh at the same time. And you’ve re­vo­lu­tion­ized my fil­ing sys­tem; it’s tidy en­vel­opes for me from now on. Thanks, Caroline.

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