Splitting even the most common business & personal expenses takes time. So, if you’re part of the on-demand society, you’ll have to carefully calculate your business expenses when tax season is just around the corner. You’ll write these off on your Schedule C and it’s crucial that you do it correctly. As an independent contractor, properly calculating your business expenses can greatly reduce your tax liability and save you money.
The difficult part is actually calculating these expenses. When you’re self-employed, many of your business expenses are mixed in with personal expenses so it takes some work on your part to figure out only the business portion. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the three most common business and personal expenses.
Keep in mind – when deciding between business and personal expenses, the IRS requires that business expenses be ‘ordinary and necessary’. Use your judgement when making this decision.
If you use your cell phone for work purposes, you most likely use it for personal reasons as well. With cell phones, you have a little more room for judgement when deciding on how much is used for business. Typically, you have to calculate how much of your cell phone bill is used for business, including voice and data.
For example, if you make a lot of calls for business purposes and you have to switch your plan for one with more minutes, you can probably write-off the difference between the two plans.
A car is another common expense that freelancers use for both personal and business reasons. There are two ways to calculate this business expense:
- Standard mileage rate: The standard mileage rate is the easiest way to calculate your car’s business expense. To use this method, you would calculate your business mileage by the IRS approved rate. The rate for 2015 was 57.5 cents. This rate includes gas, maintenance, lease payments, and insurance.
- Actual costs method: Alternatively, you can use the actual costs method. In this method, you need to calculate the actual costs of your car expenses for business use. This method is a bit more complicated compared to the standard mileage rate. If you choose to use this method, make sure you keep careful records of all your car expenses.
- Home Office: If you’re part of the on-demand economy, chances are you work from home at least part of the time and have a home office. You can write-off a portion of this expense. To the IRS, your home office is anywhere in your home your primarily meet with clients, do work, or store business inventory. Using the home office simplified method, you can multiply the square footage of your home office by the IRS approved rate, which is around $5 per square foot. The maximum allowed square footage is 300 square feet.
Calculating your business expenses can be overwhelming but it’s important that you do it carefully and correctly. In the event of an audit, you want to be able to back up why you wrote off the amount you did.