5 tax qsAfter receiving numerous questions the last couple weeks about business licenses, taxes, finances, accounting etc. I decided to answer a few. I’m no accountant or tax expert by any means so my knowledge is limited, but I do know some basics.

1. Do I need to be charging sales tax?

Anytime you are giving your client a tangible product, one they can hold in their hands, you need to be charging sales tax. However, that being said sales tax in the US can be extremely more complicated than you might think. Sure, you could look up the tax rate for your city and state and think, ‘okay I’m good,’ but it’s unfortunately not as simple as that. First you must have a sales tax license in order to charge sales tax. If you’re just starting your business and you have been charging sales tax without having a license, stop charging sales tax and get a license as soon as possible.

2. How much should I set aside for income taxes?

When you started your business the lure of being able to work for yourself, set your own schedule and all of that sounded great right? Well, one thing they didn’t tell you was you’d have to pay more in income taxes than you would at that corporate desk job. Your first year in business you’ll have more expenses than profit so it’s fairly safe to set aside 30% and it’s more than likely you’ll have some of that left over. Afterward you can reinvest the leftovers into your business. For the years after that it’s recommended to set aside 40%. I can imagine the jaws dropping. 40% is a good safe amount and depending on your expenses and how you file your annual taxes you may not end up paying all of that back. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

3. What kind of business license do I need?

This will vary incredibly from state to state as well as from county to city and so on. You’ll need to go to your state’s website in the business section to find out what the requirements are for you specifically.

4. What can I count as an expense?

Again, this may vary depending on your business, how much you spend, what you already have, and more. My best advice is to record all expenses related to your business and have a tax guy sort through and tell you what works and what doesn’t at the end of the year. A tax expert or accountant will know best and until that time of year comes around again if you keep tabs on anything you spend at all you’ll have a full list to go over with him later.

5. I want to start being able to accept credit cards, do you know any companies that allow me to do this without a fee?

Nope, sorry. Unfortunately all companies that process credit cards do take a percentage. Most companies are within the same range and don’t vary much. I highly recommend http://www.square.com as an easy company to work with to process credit cards almost anywhere. I’ve been incredibly satisfied with them. The important thing to remember about processing credit cards is that you cannot charge the fee that the company charges you to the customer. That is against the law. That fee though does count as an expense you can take on your taxes.

If you need more help with taxes and the official side of becoming a photographer and legit business owner, check out Photography Awesomesauce’s 6 Week Online Bootcamp!

Carrie Swails

I'm a serial entrepreneur. Owner at Photography Awesomesauce, Rock Your Weird and Made in the Lab and I photograph offbeat weddings. In other words, I'm crazy. I have a birthmark in my armpit, and am a terrible mathematician. What I lack in understanding of complex theories such as Pi (clearly a food item - apple is my favorite) and invisible numbers (if I can't see them, why should I care?) I make up for in awesomesauce. I believe there is no right way to put the toilet paper on - I'm just happy it's available. I believe there's no such thing as a bad fortune in a fortune cookie. I believe we only live life once so we should wear costumes as often as possible. I believe wine is like the force - it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together. I howl with my basset hound every morning, call my brother to beat video game bosses for me, and love eating fried cheese.

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