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Work Like a Freelancer, Think Like an Accountant

Tax tips for the self-employed.

 

This is part of "Live Large, Spend Less," a comprehensive guide to surviving (and even flourishing) in America's most expensive city. See all of the stories here.

 

When you're self-employed, taxes are a pain, but that’s no reason to leave money on the table. “So long as you can make a reasonable argument that you need something for business, you can deduct it,” says Matthew Whatley, a San Francisco tax preparer. Here are three areas that deserve a second look.

Work from home? You can write off the area of your house that is dedicated exclusively to your business. That means part of your rent or mortgage, sure, but also portions of your utilities and Internet.

Drive a lot for business? You can take back more than 50 cents for every mile driven—or calculate the actual cost of using your car, from tires and licenses to garage rent and even depreciation.

Funding your own travel? The IRS actually has set per diem rates, so if you’re going to, say, Manhattan, that’s $71 a day you can write off for food. If you take a client to an event, like a play or a basketball game, you can write off 50 percent of the tickets—not to mention portions of your hotel room and all of your plane or train ticket.

 

Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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