Friday, March 6, 2009

Don't wait until April 15th!

Ah, tax time. The joy, the challenge, the excitement. Yeah. Okay. Look, I'm no professional tax preparer, and don't give advice on how to fill out forms. But, if you have no clue how to go about this, here are some suggestions:

Of course, your records are all in order, easy to get to, and make sense, so this won't take long. You have your list of assignments with all the information about what you have been paid, including bonuses and reimbursements. You have your mileage sheet all together and calculated, so you know how many miles you drove for business purposes. All your office supply purchases are listed, your receipts are kept and filed and you have a total for them.

You'll need a Schedule C, a Schedule SE (probably the long form, although your tax advisor can help you) and the regular tax form. Because you've had self-employment earnings, that means it's the 1040 for you.

If you have earned $600 or more from a single company, they will have sent you a 1099 Report of Earnings form. Don't be fooled into thinking you don't have to report any money you make that is less than that $600 figure. The IRS expects all income to be declared.

Now it's just a matter of reading through the forms and filling in the blanks. Pay attention to mileage, the standard deduction changed from 50.5 cents per mile to 58.5 cents per mile on July 1.

Consensus is split as to the "activity code" to use for mystery shopping. Many shoppers use 999999, Unable to Classify. 561600, Investigation and Security Services is a common code for shoppers in states that require a private investigator's license. I personally like 541910, Market Research & Public Opinion Polling. Again, check with your tax preparer or accountant.

Good luck, file early, and get help. The first time seems harder than it really is.

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