The Tools I Use to Survive Tax Prep for My Photography Business - Elizabeth Langford

I'm Liz and God designed me to be an encourager, a dreamer, a story teller and most importantly, a Kingdom builder.

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The Tools I Use to Survive Tax Prep for My Photography Business

For Photographers

There are good things and not so good things about being your own boss. Flexible schedule, specializing and being the final decision maker all fall in the “good” category. Long hours, liability and taxes fall under “not so good.” Since April 15th is just around the corner and we know that “death and taxes” are the two things we can be certain of, I know a lot of small business owners are rushing to finalize their 2013 and get their taxes filed. For some that might include an overflowing shoe box of receipts, for others long nights checking and double-checking contracts and invoices. I used to be one of those people. I used to dread mid-April too. Then I decided that instead of letting the weight of prepping tax materials for multiple business (both mine and my husband’s) as well as our personal get me down, I would get proactive.

In doing so I found a few tools that help me to survive tax prep and that made this year the easiest year ever. We’re lucky to have a wonderful accountant that we work with. I do the prep work, we have a single one-hour meeting with him and then he completes and files our taxes. The process is even more simple now with e-File (electronic filing).

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Here are a few tools I use…

MILE IQMileIQ is a great app for tracking your mileage. Instead of trying to remember and either write down or login to a mileage tracking app every time you get in your vehicle for work… MileIQ auto tracks your drives. It runs in the background of your iPhone (sorry non-iPhone-users… the Android app isn’t ready yet) and using GPS keeps track of all of your drives. Then with a simple swipe of the finger you classify your drives as either personal or business. You also have the option to “pause” tracking and then turn it back on later. For example, I paused tracking while on a personal trip a few weeks ago. When I got home I simply turned tracking back on from within the app. The app has both a free and a paid subscription. The free version tracks up to 40 drives per month and the paid subscription is $59.99 per year and tracks unlimited trips (I use the paid subscription). Another major bonus is that MileIQ can now push your mileage directly to FreshBooks (I don’t use FreshBooks, but I’ve heard good things about it.)

The biggest game changer for me this year was using Jot by Chase. For the most part all of my business expenses are put on my Chase Ink business credit card. I do this so that I can keep all of my expenses in one place. Using Jot by Chase then allows me to keep track of those expenses by tagging them into categories (that I create) and the best part? I can take a photo of a receipt with my smart phone and then attach that image to the actual expense item within Jot. Then I can dispose of the receipt!! That’s right, no awful shoe box of receipts haunting my office and my dreams. I snap a quick photo of the receipt and then away it goes. The IRS does accept images of receipts as a valid form of documentation for tax (and audit) purposes as long as the image is readily accessible and legible It also might be helpful to know that you are not required to have/provide documentation (a receipt) for an expense under $75 (unless it’s lodging related). You can read more about documentary evidence on the IRS’s website here.

Expensify is another great app for keeping track of your expenses as well as your business mileage. I used it up until last year, but now have found using Jot by Chase to be a game changer – since it doesn’t require me to link my account with an outside source.

Finally, Mint is an app that I use to keep track of our personal expenses and budgets… and it’s fantastic. It allows you to link all of your financial accounts and then view a “big picture” of how you’re doing. I know I’m not using it to it’s full potential, so it’s on my list of things to jump deeper into this year.

While these apps make tax prep more simple, they still require work on your end. I’ve found that making the first Wednesday of each month a “management” day helps me to stay-on-top of my business to-do list. It’s also a good night to order in pizza (my new favorite is thin crust with pepperoni, italian sausage, bacon and fresh basil from Rosati’s), open a bottle of red wine and enjoy an episode of one of my favorite shows, Modern Family.

And congratulations to Cara Dwyer who commented on yesterday’s post and has won a free copy of the book Start by Jon Acuff!!

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