[Business] Last Minute Tax Write Off Ideas For The Professional Photographer

Well it's the end of the year again which means those of you who run a photography business are probably thinking about maximizing your tax write offs. Understanding the US Tax code for any business is a full time job in and of itself so I'd highly recommend hiring a great tax team to make your life easy and also productive (start with a great book keeper and a CPA familiar with the photography profession). It would also be wise for you to pick up a few books on tax codes for photographers and other creative professionals so you aren't completely dependent on your hired help. While you are at it, check out the latest 2010 PDN article on tax code changes which explains some of the new tax codes adopted last year.

Since taxes in the US aren't usually due until April 15th, you can still read up on the best ways to prepare your previous year's taxes even into the new year. Just make sure any tax deductions you plan to use for this year are spent or donated before the first of January. To all of the professionals out there, hopefully 2011 wasn't so bad for you with all the crazy economic swings. If you are a photographer on the cusp of turning pro, now is a great time to start thinking about 2012! If anyone has other great tax resources for the working professional, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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Buy New Photography Gear The obvious place to spend any extra money you might have waiting to be invested into your company is picking up some new photo gear. Buying new cameras, computers, monitors, backpacks, and other crucial upgrades is usually the most exciting aspect of being a photographer so knock yourself out! There are still some great deals to be had following the Christmas season, and picking up that second camera or new lens is easier to justify once you've already spent money on your loved ones. As tempting as it may be, save some of your money for some of the items below especially if your business is still developing. New photo gear isn't always the most important cost of running a success business and many new to the field will over spend in this category. Check out the Fstoppers Gear Guide for some of our favorite products. [Fstoppers Gear Guide ]

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Update Your Library When photographers think of continuing education, they often forget how important it is to build up a personal photography library. Doctors and lawyers have journals and reference books and so should you! You can browse through some of our favorite photography and business books in the Fstoppers Library, but you also might want to check out magazines like Pop Photo, RangeFinder, Shutterbug, or Professional Photographer Magazine. I personally love getting stuff in the mail so a few monthly magazine subscriptions help curb my more expensive gear buying addition. Also, if you enjoy fine art or the work from a specific photographer, you can probably write off all those collections as well so stock up! [Fstoppers Library ]

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Peter Hurley: The Art Behind The Headshot When I'm looking at purchasing a DVD or attending a seminar, the first question I ask myself is "Is this a good investment for my business" or "Will this ultimately make me more money?" Peter Hurley's The Art Behind The Headshot has probably changed my business and photography more than any other DVD or lecture I've purchased. But don't listen to me, the reviews pouring in are so amazingly positive that it's clear other photographers have found Peter's knowledge as valuable as Lee and I have found it. And because it's a digital download, you can watch Peter in all his High Res glory hours after buying it online! [The Art Behind The Headshot]

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Subscribe To Animoto If you are a wedding photographer, having an Animoto subscription is a no brainer! But regardless of what type of photography you specialize in, it's really useful to have a modern and interactive slideshow program to impress your clients, use for self promotion, or even for making your own unique gifts to give friends and family. Animoto has become a powerful promotional tool for thousands of photographers, and since it requires a yearly subscription it's a great way to invest in your business at the end of every tax year. [Animoto ]

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Update Your Website Many of the most successful photographers have made the argument that the most important investment in your career is a kickass online portfolio or website. If you are one of the world's top photographers then you probably have the budget to pay for a custom one of a kind website. But for the rest of us mere mortals, we simply need an affordable site that is both clean and easy to navigate while also being quick and painless to update. Lee and I have used a ton of different website companies specializing in sites for photographers, and we have found Creative Motion Design to have the best customer service of any other website company we've used. CMD is also releasing slick new HTML sites that can load on mobile devices every single month!. You might not be ready to revamp your current website just yet but if you purchase a website now you can write it off today and build it next year. Also Fstoppers readers receive a 10% discount which can be stacked on top of any specials they might be running on their own. [Creative Motion Design]

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Renew Hosting Domains/URLs Every professional photographer needs to be pretty savvy with SEO, marketing, and having a great online presence. The end of the year is always a great time to stock up on those great URL names you've been thinking about or extending your website's hosting plans. There are a lot of hosting options like GoDaddy, Hostgator, and Web Hosting Hub so you have a ton of options. There is a great review article here that can lead you in the right direction if you haven't already established a hosting company. No matter who you host with, it's always nice to cover your hosting and url subscriptions far in advance so it's one less headache you have to deal with down the road. [Host Gator]

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Start A Retirement Fund I know the idea of putting money away for retirement is not usually a fun way to "spend" your hard earned cash, and in fact, most people do not put enough money into saving or have any savings at all! The truth of the matter is you need to start investing your money into some sort of retirement fund no matter how unexciting that may sound. If you are in the US, a great place to start is either with an IRA or Roth IRA (they differ slightly so read up on the differences). Basically the government allows you to defer tax payment on income each year for a small amount of savings put aside for retirement. If you aren't self-employed, you might have a 401(k) retirement fund where your employer might actually give you free money for investing into your own retirement (if they match). Whatever you decide to do, you should consider maxing out any retirement fund(s) you have to not only invest in your future but also lessen the burden of the IRS at the end of the year. The IRS also allows you to make contributions into many investment accounts a few months after the new year has started. So you may still have time to make that contribution if you haven't considered this option yet. [IRAs Explained ]

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Give To A Charity A final suggestion if you are looking to lower your taxable income is to give a donation to a charity. Giving back to those less fortunate or towards a cause that means something to you should be an important part of your business once you start turning a profit. If you've never given to a charity before, it can be a little daunting trying to find the right one so I've linked to Forbes List of the top 100 charities of 2011. Giving money to a cause you support is almost a bonus because not only are you able to help your own tax liability but you are also providing funds for a great cause. Hopefully giving a charitable donation is on your list of initial tax deductions but if it slipped your mind we've included it here! [Forbes Top 100 Charities]

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(Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Fstoppers does not provide professional accounting or tax advice. Readers should consult with their own accountants for tax and accounting advice.)

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12 Comments

Hey Patrick, Thanks for the information bro.

Andreas Feustel's picture

Thank you for this useful reminder!
I'm thinking about ordering Peter Hurley's headshot DVD to get rid of all of my tax I have to pay for 2011 in one go! ;-))

Patrick Hall's picture

Cool, I'm sure you will like it.  Just make sure you consult a tax accountant because you should still have to pay some taxes unless you are in the lowest tax bracket for your business.  

Andreas Feustel's picture

Patrick, in Europe we are all under pressure of American rating agencies and the €uro incomes / taxes are not that high anymore!

Just kidding! ;-)

Thanks,
Andreas

don't forget the free subscription to Rangefinder magazine, and AfterCapture :) not tax writeoffs, but worth mentioning along with those other fine magazines.

I love how Patrick (and the rest of the fstoppers team) has bascially built this site around the information that I actually need.  This is great :D

Fatcow.com does domain hosting that is much much better than godaddy.  Great customer service and its cheaper as well. 

Patrick Hall's picture

Just trying to help...I was so lost when I first became a photographer and we all have a long ways to go moving forward.  

i am not a professional photographer, but i do have my own business.  don't forget to write off all your business travel expenses and meals etc...   are you "scouting locations"  those can be written off, too...   if you keep a "diary" with dates, why you went and any details in a note pad (now you can just enter the info in your iPhone or droid, it is so easy to do...  this can amount to thousands of dollars you already spend...  as always check with your tax advisor...

Patrick Hall's picture

Yes, if you are traveling for work you should always write off as much of that as you can.  It might be a bit tough for people to plan a business trip with 2 days left in the year so I only included last minute ideas.  

I keep a mileage log in my car at all times.  As soon as I hop in, I write down the odometer reading, and when I'm done the trip, write down the new reading.  Do some quick cell phone math, and bada-bing!

I'm from Canada, and my accountant said I can do this for EVERY time my vehicle is used for ANYTHING (travelling to a location, scouting new locations, picking up supplies).  Not sure how it applies in the rest of the world, however.

Happy tax season, all!

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