I just filed my taxes and I know how painful, frustrating, exasperating, mind-numbing, etc. it can be, especially when you’re trying to gather information from the previous year. Here’s three tools/tricks that have made my tax time infinitely more bearable.
Full disclosure, I’ve used TurboTax ever since I started freelancing for myself (I’m a publicist when I’m not on set). I am not a qualified accountant, so if you have any questions about what you can and can take off your taxes, contact a CPA that works with actors.
Mint.com – It’s my number one life/time saver. Mint aggregates all of your bank and credit card transactions into one online interface. The beauty is that you can search for specific transactions by name (Straight Talk Wireless, my cell phone service provider, for example) or by number (rent) and export all of the data as a .CSV file and copy and paste the information into Excel. It eliminates the need to input receipt after receipt. Side note – you should have a business credit card just for your acting business and/or business business. Capital One is in my wallet and I make every business purchase using it or my business debit card. Here’s some credit card recommendations from Nerd Wallet.
Excel – I put all of my expenses into one Excel sheet according to the corresponding groups in TurboTax. It makes it super simple to add and, after I add the corresponding financial number to TurboTax, I highlight in a different color as a reminder that I added it. Just make sure the formula (SUM) is correct and adds every number. It completely eliminates the need for a calculator.
Notes – Mileage can be a tough one. If you have an iPhone, you can easily track it though. Simply put in the number of miles, the location and the final mileage every time you take a trip. I also have a never ending January 1st calendar reminder to capture the mileage for each calendar year so I know my total mileage for the year. And by inputting it into Notes, I know the total mileage for just acting and business related trips. If you want to get sophisticated, there are a number of apps that will track and export that information. And if you run your own business, you can use a invoice/time tracking software service like Billings Pro, Harvest or Freshbooks, which have apps.
Mint, in particular, has made my life at tax time so much easier. Highly, highly recommend.
Best of luck this tax season!