I apologize that this post is a little off-topic. I tried to bring it back around to manga, but it’s a little shaky. Here goes:
If there was one thing I wish someone had taught me how to do when it came to life’s many lessons, it would have been to sit me down and tell me how to do my taxes.
Let me explain: having to do my taxes is one of the few things I’ve dreaded about being an adult. I’m horrible at math more complicated than basic arithmetic and I don’t understand economics in the slightest. Before becoming an independent, all I did in terms of taxes was sign the forms my mom got from her tax guy.
So after said tax guy gave me a quick de-briefing on when to pay the IRS, what to deduct and all that jazz once I became a freelancer, I kind of forgot about it all. I knew I had to set aside a certain amount to pay the IRS, so I did that every few months. Then I came home off my trip to Thailand, caught up on work and realized that I had to pay the government soon! In only a few days, actually! Oops.
I tried desperately to understand the tax forms, but it just read like gibberish or there was information I couldn’t provide blocking my way. It was frustrating. It’s not like I didn’t know how to fill out other stuff, but somehow I couldn’t get over the hill and into “this makes sense”-land.
I wound up asking for many people’s help, including other freelancers, former freelancers and that tax guy I mentioned earlier. While many people were more than willing to try to help, still nothing pushed me over the hill into understanding until I finally got a hold of my mom’s tax guy again.
And then he did it all for me. I was kind of flabbergasted at how simple it was. I just told him how much I made, what my various deductions were and he sent me an invoice to send to the IRS with how much money I owe them for my quarterly estimated payment. (What freelancers/small businesses have to pay the government.) Why isn’t doing taxes on your own this simple? (Seriously, there’s something wrong with our government if taxes can’t be done by someone who isn’t trained to do them.)
What does this have to do with manga? Very little. But to be honest, I see the manga industry heading in a direction where a large part of the work is sent outside the company. I see very few full-time job listings from publishers except for sales people, programmers and the occasional executive or designer. If another type of post pops up, it’s because someone has vacated a job the publisher deems vital enough to keep. So what’s left? A network of freelance translators, adapters, editors, letterers and designers. To be frank, I think this entire nation is heading towards freelance because so many Americans don’t have jobs except for the ones they can create themselves. Anyone preparing themselves to try and enter the industry needs to be aware that their taxes are a bit different from everyone else’s and you aren’t going to be panicking with everyone else on April 1st.
Here’s a few quick tips:
1. Get help from someone: Unless you studied to be a CPA in college, you probably won’t understand the tax forms and myriad of literature that tells you how to fill them out. If your parents, other family members or friends can’t help you get things sorted out, it might be worth it to pay someone. I’m super glad my mom had a trusty tax guy under her sleeve because I went into panic mode once things really stopped making sense. Worth it.
2. Don’t wait til the last minute: Trust me, you don’t want to be at Step 1 wondering how you’re going to all this two days before that estimated payment is due. The ensuing panic attack is horrible.
3. Keep good records: This totally saved my ass this time. I had all the information I needed to give the tax guy, it was just a matter of putting it all together, which didn’t take very long. It will also serve you well if the IRS ever decides to audit you, so don’t throw things away just because you’ve made your payment.
4. Learn what you can deduct: I was hoping to deduct some of my rent, but since my home office is pretty much just the extra chair on our small dining room table and not a whole separate room used only for work, I couldn’t deduct it. Bummer.That being said, deductions won’t be the same for everyone, so double check what you CAN deduct.
5. Deduct your manga: If you freelance in the comic book publishing industry, or at least as a freelance editor, all your comic book purchases are deductible. This is a super-awesome fact that I grin about every time I hit the comic book stores. It makes me so happy!
Anyway, I hope this post does some good for someone who is just as clueless about taxes as I have been. Educate yourself if you’re a freelancer!