Self Employment Tax Deductions for Journalists

Last updated September 23, 2020

A journalist is a relatively common freelance business, since the work can be done from anywhere. Whether you’ve always been a freelancer, or you’re just embarking on a career away from a news organization, you need to know about self-employment taxes.

Specifically, journalist tax deductions are vital to understand and track well before tax season arrives. By using all the appropriate journalist tax write-offs, you can reap the benefits of having your own business, besides the joy of being your own boss.

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Why care about journalist tax deductions?

As a journalist, there are a lot of expenses incurred as part of doing your work. And many of those expenses can be considered journalist tax deductions. As they add up, they reduce the amount of your taxable income, meaning you can pay less taxes in the end.

So it’s good to understand all the journalist tax write-offs that can be a boon to you at tax time, and in fact all year long. Starting and maintaining a freelance business has costs, so it helps to have deductions to offset them.

Common journalist tax deductions

There are some expenses that are common among freelancers, and some that are specific to being a journalist or media professional. Since there are some nuances about what and how much can be used as journalist tax write-offs, it’s a good idea to check with an expert like an accountant.

Here’s a list of the most common expenses that can be considered journalist tax deductions.

💲   Startup expenses
As you establish your business, you will have upfront costs like a computer or laptop, desk, phone, tape recorder or even camera. Because you will use these for more than a year, they can be deducted as a capital expense.
✏️   Other office supplies
Other tools that you use to do your work can be deducted, like notepads and pens, printers, cartridges and paper, and even headphones for listening to taped interviews.
📈   Marketing or portfolio costs
As you seek business, a portfolio, website and other marketing material will help you get work. That can also include advertising, website hosting fees and business cards.
🏛   Office costs
The cost of office space or shared space, including rent, utilities, and insurance, can be used as journalist tax deductions.
🏡   Home office
Or, if you work from home, a portion of those costs can be used as a deduction, including mortgage interest, utility costs like power and Internet, and home insurance.
🚗   Vehicle costs
If you need a vehicle to do your work, expenses like mileage, gas, and parking, or public transportation expenses like subway passes, can be used as journalist tax deductions.
✈️   Other travel expenses
If you travel to do research for your articles, expenses like airfare, train or bus tickets, meals and accommodations can be used as journalist tax deductions.
💻   Special hardware and software
Depending on your work, you may need special word processing software, online project management software, or storage space like external hard drives or storage software, all of which can be used as journalist tax deductions.
📱   Internet and cell phone costs
A phone is the lifeline of a journalist, so you can deduct expenses like monthly bills if you use it exclusively for business. Or, you can deduct the business portion if it’s also for personal use.
📚   Professional development
Any type of continuing education, including newspaper and magazine subscriptions, conferences and classes, as well as any related travel, can be used as journalist tax deductions.
📜   Licensing costs
Your business license, professional association membership, and other licensing costs are eligible expenses.
👨‍⚖️   Researcher or other sub-contractors
You may need to hire a researcher to help with a big project, or a photographer to complete a magazine spread. Those are considered journalist tax deductions.
🏥   Health insurance
Any health insurance related costs can qualify as eligible tax write-offs for journalists.
👨‍💻   Professional expertise
Professionals that help with your business are deductible costs, like a lawyer to review your work, or an accountant that works at tax time.
If you decide that you want to use an online system that makes calculating write-offs and tax return time simple, you can deduct the cost of using a platform like Bonsai.
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How to qualify if a journalist expense is deductible or not?

To know what expenses can be used as journalist tax deductions, it’s good to know the definition of a business expense as provided by the federal taxing authority, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The IRS states that a business expense can be a deduction if it is both ordinary and necessary. Ordinary is a common or accepted expense for your business, like a laptop for a journalist. Necessary is one that is helpful and appropriate for your business, but it doesn't have to be indispensable. A website that profiles your work in a portfolio would be an example.

You’re not expected to know every deduction and benefit available to you when you start your freelance business. Our list of journalist tax deductions will help you take advantage of being your own boss.

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What journalist expenses are NOT tax deductible?

There are some expenses that cannot be used as journalist tax deductions:

💲   Personal expenses
If you’re a media professional who appears on-air, you may think that costs related to maintaining a professional appearance are deductions. But in fact these expenses are still considered personal, so journalist tax deductions don’t include clothing, makeup, hair, or fitness.
🥯   Cost of all meals
While you can deduct the cost of meals that are work-related, there are some guidelines that restrict deducting every meal at which your work is discussed. A meal with a potential client is reasonable; lunch with your best friend at which you update them on your latest job could be a stretch.
🚕   All your office or car expenses
If your office is at home, your car is used for both business and personal use, and your phone is used for more than business, you need to be careful to only use the business portion of each as journalist tax deductions.

How can I use these journalist tax deductions?

There are a couple of ways you can ensure you take advantage of all the appropriate journalist tax deductions:

   1. Make tax time easy with an online platform such as Bonsai’s accounting and taxes tool.

   2. Set up a system to track all your expenses and use them as deductions when you file your income tax return.

   3. Use the services of an accountant, who will direct you to track certain expenses and keep records of them.

Remember, you can use Bonsai's free self-employment tax calculator to estimate your quarterly taxes!

Tax Deductions for Other Self Employed Workers

Not a journalist? Find tax deductions for your specific profession below.

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