Easy Tax Guide for Writers, Photographers, and Other Freelancers

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Most freelancers, consultants and other self-employed individuals lose more than necessary to taxes. But not the freelancers who know how to make continually changing tax laws work for them. Julian Block’s Easy Tax Guide for Writers, Photographers, and Other Freelancers is an indispensable reference that offers clear, concise and immediately useful advice on how to sidestep pitfalls and take maximum advantage of frequently missed, perfectly legal opportunities that can save many thousands of dollars.

Reviews for previous editions

James E. Maule, a professor at Villanova University School of Law and Graduate Tax Program, blogs on taxes. Below is his take on the book

A Tax Book for Writers (and Others)

A few years ago, I reviewed Julian Block’s “ Savvy Ways for Writers, Photographers, Artists and Other Freelancers to Trim Taxes.” He has now released a new edition, with a modified title, “Julian Block’s Easy Tax Guide for Writers, Photographers, and Other Freelancers.” Once again, Julian has given tax practitioners and taxpayers with any sort of connection to the literary or artistic world a handy and helpful explanation of tax tips that they might otherwise neglect.

Julian opens the book with several questions posed by readers of the earlier edition. What are the tax consequences of writing a book for an agreed price, incurring reimbursable expenses only to discover that the publisher went out of business and did not pay? Are the tax consequences different if the writing business is a part-time one? How should an author react when one publisher sends a Form 1099 net of agent’s commissions and the other publisher sends a Form 1099 showing the gross royalty? Must expense reimbursements included in a Form 1099 be reported? Are the expenses incurred for a spouse who accompanies a writer to a conference deductible? What is the tax treatment of a speaking honorarium that the speaker asks be paid to a charity? What sort of charitable contribution is available for donating papers, original manuscripts, and correspondence to a charity? Is a charitable contribution available for an artist who paints a portrait and donates it to a church bazaar? There are more questions. Yes, there are answers, but to discover them, buy the book.

Julian then discusses, in succession, the hobby loss and for-profit rules, the tax treatment of awards received for writing and other accomplishments, depreciation deductions for writers and artists, how freelancers compute health insurance deductions, automobile expenses, travel expenses for spouses, the tax consequences of hiring one’s children, home office deductions, sales of homes for which home office deductions have been claimed, and clothing expenses. Julian then deals with some planning and compliance issues, including the timing of making payments near year-end, sending payments to the IRS, self-employment taxes, net operating losses, retention of tax records, extensions of time to file, amending returns, obtaining tax advice from the IRS and others. He deals with these topics in language suitable for those who are not familiar with the technical verbiage of the Internal Revenue Code.

Writers and other freelancers, especially those unfamiliar with the impact of tax law on their activities, should get themselves a copy of this book. I recommend it just as I recommended Julian’s previous books.


Julian Block, a nationally recognized attorney, has written extensively on personal finance. His book may just be what the medical writer needs for answers to problem questions about taxes and finance. Block is not only a lawyer, an accountant, and a former I RS special agent, he is also a freelance writer, and he provides invaluable hints that your accountant may not know.

The book includes chapters on small business depreciation, deductions for health insurance and vehicles for self-employed individuals, home office deductions, self-employment taxes and net operating losses. He explains the intricacies of situations. For example, freelance writers have choices on how to claim expenses for furniture, computers, and so on, but the rules take some twists and turns. He explores the circumstances for which it is advantageous to employ children in a parent’s business (and those for which it is not).

In his book, Block answers questions. He answers what he says is the most frequently asked question: “How long should I hang on to records?” and gives exceptions to the “3-year rule.” He also recounts more complex questions from writers, such as the following: “For the past few years, my writing income has been meager. But this year’s income will soar because of a 6-figure book advance. According to a fellow writer, income averaging will lower my tax tab by many thousands of dollars. When I file next spring, do I need to complete some form for averaging that has to accompany the 1040 form?” Block’s response: “Your friend’s advice might have been helpful when the Oval Office was occupied by Ronald Reagan. But the rules now on the books provide no break for someone whose income jumps. A top-to-bottom overhaul of the IRS code, the Tax Reform Act of 1986, included a provision that abolished averaging for nearly everybody, although there continues to be limited exception for farmers. My advice is to focus instead on easy and perfectly legal ways for writers to trim taxes. A standard tactic is to stash some of the advance money into one of those retirement plans for self-employed persons.”

The book also includes several chapters on practical advice, including tips about making payments at the end of the year, keeping records, sending checks to the IRS, extensions of time to file, and making refund claims. In addition, Block provides a list of helpful booklets from the IRS such as

Pub. 463 Travel, Entertainment, Gift and Car expenses.

Block’s unique blend of tax savvy and background in freelancing, the IRS, and the law, make his book very valuable to writers and photographers.

Julian Block is a syndicated columnist, former special agent (criminal investigator) with the IRS, and an attorney, Block has also authored the chapter on “Taxes and Deductions” in the American Society of Journalists and Authors book, “The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing.”

As April 15 approaches, we’re all thinking about taxes. I’m far too risk-averse to dismiss my accountant based on what I’ve gleaned from Block’s guide. But I believe I can work with him more effectively, and I do see ways I can (legally!) keep more of the income my writing generates in the future.

I learned quite a lot from this guide. For instance:

–I gained insight into how IRS examiners “determine whether your intention is to turn a business profit from your writing…or just to have fun.”

–I was reminded that the next time I attend a writers’ conference, I can deduct “100 percent of what [I] spend for the attendance fee, tapes of sessions, books on writing and the like,” plus travel between my home and the conference site, and hotel expenses. One hundred percent! “There’s a limitation, though, for meals not covered by the attendance fee”: I can deduct only 50 percent of those expenditures.

–I discovered why “award-winning writers and others are losers under the tax laws.” (Maybe that will cheer me up the next time my work fails to win a big contest.)

–And, importantly, I read about health insurance deductions for freelancers. Wish I’d known all that back when I was freelancing full-time.

I found the most readable and helpful sections of this guide to feature that old standby: the Q&A format. Block’s summaries of relevant court cases are also illuminating. Finally, I appreciated the book’s concluding section on “Getting Help from the IRS,” which explains the resources you can (and can’t necessarily) count on from The Source.

His book may well help you save more of what you earn from your writing. And since it is a business-related publication, you should be able to deduct its cost from your taxes!


As a former IRS special agent and attorney, Julian Block brings a unique ‘”insider” view on tax tips for freelance professionals to his new book, Tax Tips for Writers, Photographers and Other Freelancers.Freelancers often have different kinds of tax questions and need different financial strategies than other taxpayers who work for established companies as employees. In his book, Block strives to answer tax-related questions on hot topics for freelancers, and provide guidance on how freelance writers can keep more of their money (legally!) each year.Opening the book with a section of specific ‘real life’ tax-related questions and answers, it’s clear right away that Block has a knack for turning a topic that makes most of our heads’ spin into a perfectly sensible discussion about your money.

Block’s advice is clear and straightforward. All of his suggestions are presented in a way that would make a do-it-yourself-er comfortable, while making sure that taxpayers who have a tax professional prepare their taxes are aware of how the financial decisions they may make during the year affect that April 15th payment or refund. With his knowledge of what the IRS is looking for and how the agency interprets tax laws, Block provides real world advice in a confident and knowledgeable manner. He even provides calm guidance in the event errors have been made in filing; a whole section is devoted to filing amended tax returns, either to set right an omission or error, or recover money you overpaid. With tax season fast approaching, it’s time to sharpen the pencils, gather your tax documents, and call in the reserves. For writers seeking help on the particulars of filing taxes as a freelancer, his book may be just the help you need.”



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