Do you still have to pay taxes as a blogger even if you don’t make a penny your first year?
Being a self-employed blogger is so exciting isn’t it? I LOVE working from home.
However, as they say, death and taxes are two absolutes in life.
One of the not-so-fun aspects of blogging or working as a freelancer is tax stuff. But never fear, there are some solutions for staying organized and maximizing the money you get to keep!
**By the way, I’m NOT a tax expert. This is basic information, and not to be taken as professional advice. Please consult a local CPA.
*This post contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, we earn a commission at NO extra cost to you. Full details here.
There are three types of income taxes bloggers need to plan for:
1. Self-employment tax
2. Federal income tax
3. State income tax
Self-employment tax 2018
When you work for yourself, a special self-employment tax will apply to your net income amount. Net income is the amount your business earned minus any expenses you spent.
How much do I set aside for self-employment taxes in 2018?
If you expect to make any kind of profit from your blog or home-based business in the current year, prepare to set aside 15.3% of net income as your self-employment tax.
*The good new is, you can claim half of this tax as a deduction at tax time. Wait till you see the many types of tax deductions there are in the next section!
Self-employment tax calculator
There are several good real-time self-employment tax calculators for 2018. This one is free and simple to use.
And this 2018 self-employment taxes resource offers outstanding beginner information about self-employment and income taxes to help you understand them better.
If you’re brand new to blogging or other type of self-employment where earnings may be slow going, you may come up with losses instead of profits for the first year or two.
If you don’t make any profit at all, you won’t owe taxes of any kind on your business. (This does not apply to other income you or your partner may earn throughout the year.)
Will I claim a profit or a loss on my income tax statement?
If the amount you earn with your blogging or online business is less than the expenses of starting and running your business for the year, you’ll come up with a loss and not a profit.
That’s okay. Lots of home-based businesses and bloggers don’t make a profit at first. And the expenses of starting up your business, investing in courses, home office supplies, and various other things can eat up what little you do make.
You’ll be able to easily figure out what your business profits or losses are if you keep good records and use a tax specialist or reputable tax software.
Use this form on the IRS website to help you get a sense of how to figure out your profits and losses. It’s a great visual for learning more about the financial end of your business!
Should I have a tax advisor?
**Since self-employment taxes can be tricky, especially as your income grows… I highly recommend a qualified professional tax advisor to help with any financial and tax questions that come up. Here’s a great guide to help entrepreneurs find a solid tax advisor.
Federal and State Taxes for Bloggers
Your federal and state income taxes are in addition to the self-employment tax. Again, if you know that your blog or business will definitely make a profit, you’ll need to pay these taxes four times each year. These are taxes that would normally be deducted from your paycheck if you worked for an outside employer.
Quarterly Estimated Taxes
This term refers to the federal and state taxes you’ll need to pay the IRS. If you expect to owe $1000 or more in taxes from your business, you must pay taxes in four quarterly payments each year as follows:
- April 15th
- June 15th
- September 15th
- January 15th
It’s “estimated” because our earnings, profits, or taxes we may owe during the year is always a guess.
You can’t tell the future, but you can get an idea based on what you made last year, plus any increases you might reasonably expect this year.
When in doubt, set aside at least 30% of what you make in profits (monthly earnings – monthly expenses) each month.
I recommend a separate savings or checking account just for this “special” money… taxes are so special, aren’t they?
**Many new bloggers or business owners will not owe at least $1000 in taxes for the year if they aren’t making much/any profit. Therefore, they will not need to pay these quarterly taxes.
If you’re unsure, consult a tax advisor.
This cool calculator can help you estimate the amount of blogger taxes you might owe for the year. Type in some estimated earnings, minus business expenses you have, to get an idea of whether you might owe $1000 or more in income tax.
I’ll include a screenshot below.
Self Employment Tax Deductions
Need some good news?
There are plenty of tax deductions for home-based businesses! Most of these come in the form of expenses. From actual office supplies, to courses you take, and even the part of your home that you consider your “office.”
** The term “home office” (for tax deductions) doesn’t need to be a typical office space. This can be a corner of your living room, kitchen, bedroom, etc. where you have a dedicated table or desk just for work. A kitchen table doesn’t count, since it’s not totally dedicated to working. But, please be super careful on this one, and check with your CPA as it may impact your ability to claim deductions in other areas, if you own your home.
Some awesome tax deductions for bloggers:
- Part of your self-employment taxes
- Advertising costs
- Costs for courses related to your business
- Web hosting/domain name costs
- Images purchased for blog
- Email service provider
- Gas mileage (if you drive a lot for business)
- Travel costs for dedicated business trips (FinCon anyone?)
- Legal and professional services
- Computer repair/tech support for business
- Rent or lease for dedicated office space
- Office expenses (material goods)
- Home office deduction (deduct a portion of your house expenses)
- Software or other hardware for business (cameras etc. for video/podcasting)
- Health insurance premiums if you’ve purchased private health insurance
- And more!
How to File Receipts for Taxes
You’ll definitely want to keep ALL receipts related to your business. This is your proof for all of the expenses and deductions you’ll claim at tax time.
File things in appropriate folders as soon as you get receipts and invoices, etc.
You also need to keep excellent records of all income you earn, what you pay others for blogging services (like if you have a VA), and various other earnings or spending that are associated with your business.
Filing your receipts for taxes may depend on the specific categories that apply to your unique business and what products and services you offer. The following are suggestions for categories that you can customize to fit what you need to stay organized.
Receipt Categories for Taxes
Blogger tax deduction categories include:
- Health insurance payments (if you have private insurance because you’re self-employed)
- Computer & website expenses — hosting, tech help receipts, plugins, domain name, theme costs, email service providers, courses related to business, etc.
- Supplies — such as ink, paper goods, anything you use to send physical products etc.
- Gas mileage — if you drive a lot for your business, keep good records and receipts
- Marketing and misc. expenses — money spent on marketing (advertising with Facebook etc.) stock photo purchases, video equipment if you podcast, etc.
- Accounting expenses — including any financial advisor/CPA costs, tax filing services costs, Turbotax expenses etc.
- Office rent or lease (if applicable)
- Travel expenses
General business categories for self-employed taxes:
- Income: affiliate earnings, ad income, sponsored posts or ads, any freelance work you’ve done (VA or freelance writing etc.), money earned by selling your own products, any free products you’ve been given are also “income”, etc.
- 1099 Forms
- Invoices for contractors: amounts paid for VA help, if you’ve paid writers for your blog/website, graphic or web designers, etc.
- Health insurance
- Expenses (see categories above and add others that may apply to you)
- Taxes paid: keep good records of what you’ve already paid for quarterly taxes for the year and keep copies handy of what you had to pay last year.
**You’ll likely come up with more categories according to your unique business.
Best Way to Organize Receipts Electronically
I don’t organize my receipts electronically (yet!), but when I make a go of it, there are some fabulous services available now.
I do keep all records of business earnings, expenses, etc. in specific Google Doc files. They’re set up in categories just like we discussed above for the physical office files.
Also, I’ve used Freshbooks for a few years now to send invoices AND keep excellent track of my expenses. They do it all for me! I just print out my end of the year statement and put it in my tax binder.
If you love apps and would rather keep track of things electronically, you’ll want to check out this post about the best apps for managing your business receipts.
Taxes can have a happy ending…
Keeping your receipts and tax folders well organized will make your tax preparer very happy! Or, if you use an online tax service like TurboTax, you’ll be overjoyed to have everything you need when you file.
You’ll also save more money in deductions because of good organization practices. That’s definitely a reason to celebrate!
Blogging resources to jump start your blog traffic and income
- Amazon – I love affiliate marketing on Amazon. For the last 2 months, I’ve been earning over $7,000/month just from Amazon. Here are 2 super helpful Amazon ebooks that allowed me to leap frog my previous results.
- Cracking the Code on Amazon – This is for beginners and really covers the types of articles you should be writing to drive Amazon commissions It’s for beginners.
- Niche Post Conversion Strategies – Seriously, I think this is the best ebook/course I’ve ever taken. I can not recommend this enough. You will not find these tips anywhere else. It skyrocketed my sales on Amazon.
- PINTERESTING STRATEGIES: – Pinterest is one of the easiest and most effective ways to drive massive traffic to your blog, especially if you are just starting out. I generally get 140,000 to 180,000 pageviews a month from Pinterest. If you want a jump start on how to use this amazing platform, check out Carly’s course. It is simply awesome. She is so down to earth and straightforward, and you’ll see that in her writing. I LOVE this course (it was formerly an ebook, but now it’s new and improved.
- SEO – As you know, I’m hugely into SEO and it has been the key to my success. I generally get 300,000+ SEO pageviews per month, and this traffic converts much better than Pinterest and other social media channels (especially when it comes to affiliate marketing, products and email sign ups. I estimate that every pageview from organic traffic is worth at least 3x as every pageview from Pinterest! Yes, 3 times as much! And, it’s much steadier, more sustainable and more passive. Check out my 2 SEO books.
- Affiliate marketing – I love affiliate marketing and have been earning over $7,000/month just from affiliate marketing. I highly recommend Carly’s affiliate marketing course. It’s amazing and half the price of some of the bigger bloggers’ programs…and I think it’s much better, too.
- Email marketing – Learn from the master, Jennifer Maker. She has over 100,000 subscribers in around 2 years. She’s an incredible teacher. Her ListLove course is amazing. Or get started with her FREE email course here.
- Sponsored Posts – Sponsored posts can be a great way to supplement your income, especially during the first few years. Many just don’t even know where to get started or how much to charge or how to create a media kit or where to find the best sources. Well learn from a master, Tracie Fobes. She’s been doing this for 10 years! And, she charges well over $2,500 + per post. Her course comes complete with a media calculator and templates to set you up for success. Check out Sponsored Success here. If you just need the sponsored post calculator, you can purchase it a la carte here.
- Getting started/setting up your blog – If you’re a very beginner and need help in just setting up your site and getting everything set up, check out Tracie Richmond Fobes’ FREE intro course. She goes over all that critical stuff at the beginning that no one seems to cover, but everyone needs to know such as site structure, how to set up google analytics correctly and google search console, which plugins to use (and which to avoid). She is a wealth of information. (and she has may other courses that are soooo good).
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