No one looks forward to tax season. But the not-so-fun experience of filing your taxes is even more stressful for business owners. And if you’re an influencer, you are just that--a business. Thinking of yourself that way will help put you in the right mindset when you approach your taxes.
Bloggers, Youtubers and other social media influencers usually have a lot of the same questions at tax time: what counts as taxable income? Which business expenses can I deduct? Does it matter if I have a home office?
In this post we'll take a look at what you need to know to keep tax season relatively stress-free.
What's your influencer business entity?
One of the first things you need to figure out is what type of entity your business operates under. As a social media influencer, there are likely three possible business formations you might be operating under:
- Sole proprietorship
- Independent contractor
- Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)
Let's break down each business type and how to know which one applies to you.
A sole proprietor is a self-employed person who is in business for themselves. They own and operate 100% of the business. Because the business and the person are one and the same, sole proprietorships file for taxes using their usual personal income tax returns and their social security number. All business income and losses are included on the personal return, usually the IRS Form 1040 as well as the Schedule C supplement (Profit or Loss from a Business).
Sole proprietorships are taxed on any profit that your business made the past year. Your profit is simply your income minus your eligible business expenses. One of the toughest things for sole proprietors to do is to separate their business expenses and income from their normal spending and income, like from a part-time or full-time job, for instance. The easiest way to avoid the headache of identifying business transactions is to use a separate bank account, or to take advantage of an influencer business management tool that puts all of your influencer transactions in one place. A tool like Lumanu's payments feature is helpful because all of your income is right there in one, easy-to-read place.
Independent contractors are just like sole proprietorships in many important ways. Many professionals like doctors, accountants, lawyers or tradespeople operate as independent contractors. This simply means that they work for other individuals or companies on a contract basis. Independent contractors are considered self-employed, and are subject to the self-employment tax. Social media influencers and creators also fall under this category of business. Most brands who pay influencers for their work set up each creator as a contractor within their accounting system.
Brands and businesses that hire independent contractors send out forms called 1099s at the end of each fiscal year. A 1099 conveniently lays out exactly how much income a contractor made from that business during the previous year. It's important to note that business are only required to sent out 1099s to contractors who are paid more than $600 per year. That means if you're a influencer that works with many brands per year, and may make less than $600 per collaboration, the responsibility of keeping track of all income may fall onto you. It's important to keep track of all of your payment information in one place.
Limited Liability Corporations
Some business owners take the extra step of forming a single-member Limited Liability Corporation (or LLC). An LLC is a more formal business entity that registers with the state. LLCs file taxes as a separate business and are taxed differently. If your business is an LLC, it's best to seek the advice of a tax professional for assistance with filing your tax returns.
Which business expenses can I write-off?
Next, it's critical to determine which purchases may be written off as legitimate business expenses. People like bloggers, Youtubers and social media influencers may have unusual, but legitimate expenses that may add up as tax deductions--reducing your self-employment tax liability. Some examples of common influencer expenses may include:
- Cameras and video equipment
- Phone or laptop
- Home office or studio space and props
- Travel expenses (directly related to your business)
- Merchandise used for giveaways (this is a marketing expense)
- Software or apps (like photo editors, social media schedulers etc.)
- Website hosting and expenses
- Office supplies
- Professional fees (business lawyer, professional headshot photographer etc.)
Sometimes it can be tricky to figure what may be claimed as a valid business expense and what doesn't. Whenever you're in doubt, consult a tax professional.
inline_cta--creator=Download the Lumanu app to send free profressional invoices and get paid fast.
Important tips to remember
Here’s a list of essential tips all influencers should remember when filing their taxes this year:
Don’t forget to include products and other non-cash sources of income
When that fashion brand or jewelry designer sends you a free gift, it’s easy to think of it as “just a gift.” But, for influencers, this is part of your earned income. Any items that you receive from a brand in exchange for a review must be claimed as income using their fair market value. And don’t forget about sources of income like ad income, affiliate sponsored content, and live or online appearances as a part of brand partnerships.
Taxes are always more complicated for self-employed people than for traditional nine-to-five employees who get sent a W-2. Don’t wait until the last minute to start collecting your financial records, receipts and 1099 forms you may need. Make a plan for how you plan to file your taxes (e.g. which software to use).
Use software tools and get help
There are a ton of software programs out there that can help you with filing your income tax returns. There are the “big names” we all like like Turbotax and H&R Block that offer tax software for a fee. Remember that additional fees might apply if you need the self-employed version of the software. It’ll also cost you to file your state returns.
The IRS also recommends several free tools on their website--however, they may not be powerful enough to handle your itemized deductions and supplemental income documentation.
And don’t forget to take advantage of the tools you already have in place to help you. If you use a tool like Lumanu as a part of your influencer workflow, you’ll already have a huge head start by having a large chunk of your financial information in one place.
Taxes don’t have to be a huge headache! With a little knowledge and the right tools, you’ll have your influencer business taxes filed in no time.