National Camera Day: Frequently Overlooked Drives for Photographers

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National Camera Day: Frequently Overlooked Drives for Photographers

Today is National Camera Day, so why not impart a few helpful tips for all of our self-employed photographer fans?

As a self-employed photographer, you have a lot of expenses, and most of those are tax deductible. Everything from cameras, lights, memory cards and software – almost anything you need to run your business can be written off. This includes taking a mileage deduction for the miles you drive to take those beautiful photos!

You’re probably already deducting the mileage for your drives to and from shoots – and since that’s a deduction the IRS loves to scrutinize, also keeping an accurate mileage log. That makes sense. It’s likely most of these drives are longer ones, ranging anywhere from a few miles to a few hundred and that can be big money at the end of the year. But what about the smaller drives you’re making in order to run your business? Remember, you can take a deduction for any business-related drive you make, and with the 2015 mileage rate set by the IRS at 57.5 cents per mile, every mile you drive puts money back in your pocket.

With the detailed record keeping required by the IRS, you might be thinking that tracking a mile here and there for a few cents is more effort than it’s worth, so let’s look at it in dollars: every two miles you drive is a $1.15 deduction from your taxes. Now ask yourself, “How far is my favorite camera shop from my house?” (assuming you have a home office, of course) Even at a paltry mile away, that’s still $1.15 write-off round trip and those dollars can add up quickly.

Thinking about the miles you drive for your photography business through that lens, let’s take a look at some other commonly missed drives you should log to maximize your tax deduction.

Equipment

A photographer needs a lot of equipment: cameras, lenses, tripods, light meters, lights and countless other minutia. While you’re probably buying at least some of this equipment online (don’t forget to deduct it), there are some things you want to see in person. Every single trip you make to buy, or even browse, equipment for your photography business is a legitimate write-off. So the next time you run out to grab a new memory card or buy a replacement bulb, don’t forget to track those miles.

Processing and Printing

Whether you’re shooting on film or digital, odds are that at some point you’re going to need actual, physical photographs for your clients. And like many independent photographers, you’re probably having some of this work done at a photo lab. Be sure to track every trip to the lab – dropping off files or film, looking at proofs, color corrections and picking up prints. You’ll be surprised at how fast these trips add up.

Food

Given the long hours and artistry involved, your clients might think you’re a superhero, but even you have to eat at some point. If you’re lucky, when you’re out on a shoot you might be eating whatever the guests or clients are having. However, during long shoots like weddings, you’ll probably have to grab a bite at some point. So, when you’re driving a mile down the road from the wedding hall to pick up a sandwich, make sure those miles find their way into your mileage log.

A word of warning: The IRS requires that you keep a detailed mileage log for every mile you claim. While this can be a tedious chore, it’ll be worth it at tax time. Better yet, a mileage tracking app like MileIQ can automate this and make sure you never miss another mile.

These are just a few drives many photographers forget to log. Feel free to add to this list in the comments below.

Joshua Brost

Joshua Brost

Joshua Brost handles the content and communication at MileIQ. When he's not busy talking to reporters and bloggers, he can usually be found plotting how he's going to survive the zombie apocalypse, cooking something fancy or cursing at a new gadget that's not working the way he intended.
Joshua Brost

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MileIQ’s blog does not constitute professional tax advice. You should contact your own tax professional to discuss your situation.