Tax Write-offs for Graphic Designers

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As tax season draws nearer, I’ve collected an inventory of some relevant items I’ve purchased last year, pending expenses, and other ideas that are worth considering to maximize your legit expenses for taxes. Don’t forget to capture all your graphic design expenses that are tax deductible for the year. I missed one hefty business cost last year because it was on auto-pay and didn’t think to trace the receipt in my emails. Even if you aren’t a graphic designer, this list would probably work for any creative professional (artists, photographer, musician, copywriter, UX freelancers, etc).

Advancement

  • Conferences and ticketed professional events
  • Continued educational classes
  • Books (educational or inspirational publications)
  • Trade magazine subscriptions (How, Comm Arts, Print, 8faces, etc.)
  • Netflix or Cable (by watching design, art, and cultural documentaries; studying animations; researching the industries of your clients)
  • Affiliations (AIGA, AAF, co-ops)

Advertising/Branding

  • Business cards
  • Thank you gifts
  • Website Hosting
  • Domain registration
  • Typekit
  • Development/maintenance (bountify, themes, plugins)
  • Microhelp (fiverr; just don’t buy your logo there!)
  • Competition submissions (Annuals, directories)
  • Food and drink for an “open studio” or public meet+greet

Prototyping and Production

  • Print proofs
  • Sketchbooks, pens, pencils, paper, scissors, art supplies
  • Camera, lenses, and photo equipment (for portfolio shots, or image assets)

Goods and Tools

  • Online services (Dribbble, Flickr, Evernote)
  • Computers, external hard drives, online backups
  • Adobe Creative Suite (or upgrades, add-ons)
  • Font management software (Font Explorer, FontAgent Pro, etc)
  • Code editors, FTP, Parallels, Office
  • Fonts, stock photos
  • Drawing tablets (Wacom)
  • Pantone Color Matching Guides
  • Mobile apps (Paper on iOS)

Other Business

  • Employees/Contractors
  • Health insurance
  • Rent (for a studio, office, or business use of home)
  • Internet
  • Phone service (and the phone itself)
  • Filing fees
  • Tax preparation
  • Legal counsel
  • Travel and related meals

Before adding your entire credit card bill to your own list, seek a professional or know your stuff. I’m not a CPA and do not intend to diagnose or heal any tax woes. You’ll have to figure out what gets depreciated, find percentage of business-related use, and may have different laws outside your state or the beyond the U.S.

I’m sure there is more which you can add in the comments, but that would cover my bases. My recent use of Netflix has significantly increased toward career development, so that might be a first time for me to include a portion of that. Maybe there’s a good use-case above for you to make an unexpected business purchase that would push your work to new levels.

As a tip for the future, save time by consolidating your invoices and receipts right as they come so you have it all in one place and don’t have to do waste away digging through emails, Paypal, and junk drawers. I have a manila envelop for printed records, and I keep a digital pile in Evernote. What do you do to get your taxes in shape and what have you deducted?

photo cred: Draplin

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnny.tyler.583 John Stobbe

    Dude! this is great!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1198865691 Andrew Harrison

    Really helpful

  • Natalia

    Thanks for the list! I just randomly googled this and found it helpful since I have just started out freelancing.

  • Tina

    Thanks! I always forget to claim something..this totally helps!

  • Shinobi Def

    Does anyone know what a typeface license purchase should come under?