My hope this year was to write a helpful and informative post about how to pay your taxes as a writer and not go completely insane (or bankrupt). It seemed like the kind of service people would appreciate.
Unfortunately, the tax code defeated me. I do not have a helpful post about how to pay your taxes and stay sane because I did not myself succeed in paying my taxes and staying sane. The forms and schedules and confusion were all too much. I ended up drinking a bottle and a half of wine and making O Best Beloved do them.
What I did realize is that paying your taxes as a writer, or any other self-employed artist, is like grieving over a devastating loss. That’s mostly because it is a devastating goddamn loss. If they taxed a single billionaire’s income at the same percentage they hit my writing income for, they could fill a damn big budget hole. It’s an awful big chunk of my eating money to lose in one go. But I’m a student of human weaknesses; I can do grief all right. I’ve studied my Kubler-Ross model. I can’t help you with your tax forms, but I can help you with your tax emotions. Brace yourself for all five stages of grief this April:
DENIAL: It’ll be fine. Your income is super straightforward. You write the piece, they send you the check, you write the amount down. How hard is that shit going to be? And it’s not like you made any real money for them to tax. Hell, you’ll probably get a refund.
ANGER: Wait, what the fuck? You’re officially your own employer and your own employee? No, fuck that. What kind of world do we live in, where a married couple gets taxed like one person and a single working person gets taxed like two? These people are bullshit. This form is bullshit. You must have done it wrong, because it’s all fucking bullshit and they make it that way on purpose, the sons of bitches.
BARGAINING: Well fine then. Tell you what — you’ll just pay yourself minimum wage and let them tax that. And while we’re at it, let’s talk expenses. Home office, you bet your ass I got a home office. You know what else I need to write? Food. Gonna write that off, too, assholes!
DEPRESSION: You know, maybe you could just fly a plane into an IRS building. People do that shit. Get good and drunk first, it’d probably be fun. Like a roller coaster, but with more screaming and fire. Now aren’t you a bad person for even thinking that?
UNDERSTANDING: You’ve come through the grief. You understand that they’re going to take 15% of the money you worked for and 0% of the money some banker made from owning a bunch of stock. You also understand that you’re moving to fucking Mexico.
Of course, if anyone knows of a website or blog post that could actually help writers with their taxes this year, it’s not too late to mention it in the comments section here. Or you can just share your grief with me all cathartic-like.