Tax Time

Last updated 3/10/17

I take a certain amount of pride in the fact that I still do my taxes myself, despite the convoluted mess full-timing can make of it.

To this day I use TurboTax to file, traditionally the ‘Home & Business’ edition for small business owners or sole-proprietorships. In 2017 (for the 2016 tax year) TurboTax switched things up and I used the ‘Self-Employed’ package instead ($89.99 for federal). I’m sure other programs work fine too, this is just the one I use.

Taxes have actually gotten easier for me over the years as I work-camp less and work for myself more. The most complicated tax year I had on the road was 2014. The below post was the original article written in early 2015, and goes into detail about how I handled having three W-2s from three different states, two 1099-MISCs for two different businesses, and a 1099-G.

After this post are links to everything I’ve written about taxes, all conveniently gathered in one place for your reading pleasure. Well, maybe not “pleasure” per-say, this is taxes we’re talking about. But it should at least be informative.

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The backside of Enchanted Rock "weeping" after a rain - like I weep when tax time comes around

The backside of Enchanted Rock “weeping” after a rain – like I weep when tax time comes around

I ran a marathon on Monday that ran into yesterday. An, aching, exhausting seven hour ordeal that had it’s ups and downs, triumphs and despairs, there were even some tears.

No, not like a running marathon, I’m talking about taxes.

I must be a glutton for punishment, because I’m still doing my taxes myself, three tax years into this full-timing thing. Every year I keep thinking I’ll break down and pay someone to do it for me, and then I think of the time spent finding the correct qualified person, having to send all of the information to them, and being on hand while they fill in in the forms to answer questions, and I just can’t summon the effort.

Which is funny really, because as soon as I start filing them I immediately remember how much I hate doing taxes, but by then it’s too late. If I give in half-way through, then all of that toil and struggle would be for naught. The world narrows down to this one task, and I cannot rest until I see the tax beast vanquished.

I’m probably being a little melodramatic. You’re probably more interested in the actual facts of how to file taxes as a working age full-time RVer.

Disclaimer: I’m by no stretch of the imagination qualified to give official advice on filing taxes. Herein lies my personal experience, your mileage may vary. Please seek assistance from an accountant if you’re confused or unsure about some aspect of your own tax situation.

My situation is not as complicated as some people’s, I had a total of seven tax items to deal with. Three W-2’s from jobs in three different states – Kansas (my last paycheck from the 2013 Amazon season fell into my bank account in the first week of 2014), Utah (Zion Mountain Ranch), and Nevada. (Amazon – Fernley). I had two 1099-MISC forms, one from the Georgia Renaissance Festival for my acting work, and one from Amazon for my affiliate income earned through IO. I also had a 1099-G form from Kansas, something to do with the refund I got from the state for the 2013 tax year. The seventh piece of paper was from Wells Fargo for the interest I earned in my savings account. Because it was only $2 and some change, I did not need to report it.

So I had to file Federal and for three states – KS, UT, and GA. NV, and SD (my “home” state) have no income tax, so no paperwork was needed for them (Pick a non-income tax state for your domicile state if you’re still working when you hit the road, it helps!). I used TurboTax to file, and the cost with sales tax for the whole process was $202 and change: $37 for each state, and $80 for the basic + business software.

The W-2’s are pretty painless to deal with, you should be use to dealing with those from stationary living. You enter them in, the feds demand their share, the state you worked in demands it’s share, and that’s about it. But I always take 0 exemptions when I’m filling out the tax paperwork for a new job, so that the maximum amount of money gets deducted from each paycheck I make, more than I should be paying. So I always end up getting money back from my W-2 jobs at the end of the year.

The reason why I do this is the 1099-MISC’s and other miscellaneous income I make. Absolutely no taxes get deducted from that income. That doesn’t mean I get away without paying taxes on that money, but because I always end up having paid too much in taxes from the W-2 jobs, that extra money makes up for the taxes I didn’t pay for the contractor positions and business income, so it evens out in the end.

The 1099-MISC’s are a little more challenging. Interstellar Orchard is considered a business to the IRS (which is why I have the business software), and the 1099-MISC from Amazon gets applied to that business. I also report the money I make through PayPal donations. Then I get to deduct the business expenses from my total earnings for the year (for IO that’s the domain name cost and web hosting fees) – I keep a spreadsheet updated with all of this information for IO in case I ever get audited, so I can prove my numbers.

After I deduct expenses, the total profit is what I owe taxes on. Since my business is officially headquartered in South Dakota (same address as my home address since it’s a sole-proprietorship), I only owe federal taxes on blog income – although some states can be really prickly about this if you’re in them when you’re making that money. Georgia for instance tried to claim a percentage of my IO earnings even though I filed in that state (and all states) as a nonresident. Utah was the exact opposite – they were only concerned with my Zion job earnings and there were hardly any questions pertaining to other earnings for the year.

The contract job with the renaissance festival in Georgia actually turned out to be the hardest thing to deal with. That 1099-MISC sort of forced me to create a second “business” of ‘Acting’, and the business expenses for fuel and costume supplies got convoluted. It really didn’t work correctly under the Business category that I use for IO so I had to delete it and start over in the Personal section of income which has a separate 1099-MISC section for reporting in – blegh.

But finally, at noon yesterday, the deed was done. Like always, while I hate doing taxes when I’m in the process of doing taxes, as soon as I’m done I feel very accomplished and proud of myself. Seven hours including meals and breaks, it seems like forever when you’re wading around in it, but after the finish line it doesn’t seem like much time at all. A few extra hours a year spent paying my dues in the form of more complicated taxes in exchange for the freedom to roam. Heck, I’ll take that any day – well, any day after tax day is over, anyhow.

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Other tax related links:

  • RVing and Taxes – The 2012 tax season, my first year filing taxes as an RVer.
  • It’s That Time Again – The 2015 tax season, with introduction of the 1095-A form for those getting ACA health insurance from the Marketplace.
  • Filing Taxes on a Blog – A look at how I file taxes for Interstellar Orchard and related e-books (2016 tax season).

Have tax related links to share with younger full-timers? You know what to do!

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37 Responses to Tax Time

  1. edward March 10, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    Speaking from curiosity AND never anything like a tax-pro, I wonder if it might not make sense to wrap your IO/acting/etc income in an LLC — especially when you plan on publishing a book. The obvious downside is set-up fees. Depending on other factors, it might possibly simplify your income tax prep work & then, again, it might not. It might also get you a deduction for your health insurance. You do need to be careful about claiming expenses which turn your Casita and truck into commercial vehicles (!).

    edward

    • Becky March 11, 2015 at 9:58 am #

      I’d rather keep my money and spend the extra time on taxes than vice versa, and LLC’s seem like a lot more work in different ways. And don’t worry, Cas and Bertha are still safely non-commercial. 🙂

  2. Jodee Gravel March 10, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

    One of those necessary evils that feels so great to have behind us! Fortunately Bill does ours and I just have to provide the information and the sympathy 🙂
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..The Magic of Love and Oak TreesMy Profile

    • Becky March 11, 2015 at 9:59 am #

      Haha, my dad always did it when we were all under his roof – I do seem to remember a lot of grumbling and muttering. 😉

  3. Wheelingit March 10, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

    We’re exactly like you. We say we’re going to get someone to do the taxes each year, but we always end up doing them ourselves…and naturally hate it. I’m curious what business code you use for your blog since there isn’t one specifically for blogging (I’m facing this issue myself)?
    Nina
    Wheelingit recently posted..Biking On Heaven’s Door – Mission Bay, San Diego, CAMy Profile

    • Becky March 11, 2015 at 10:02 am #

      I use the miscellaneous code Nina, it’s all 9’s, but I can’t remember how many digits right now. I never found a better category to stick it under.

      Good luck with your taxes! I bet you guys’ are more complicated with the investment income.

      • wheelingit March 11, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

        OK. Cheers. I’ve been looking at codes
        711510 Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers or
        519130 Internet Publishing and Broadcasting and Web Search Portals

        I think I may go with 711510 since the main purpose of my “business” is writing, even though the $$ come from affiliate.

        Nina
        wheelingit recently posted..Biking On Heaven’s Door – Mission Bay, San Diego, CAMy Profile

        • Becky March 11, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

          Sounds good to me Nina, thanks for sharing these codes. 🙂

  4. PJ March 10, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    You may be able to legally deduct some of your travel expenses for your IO business, since a big part of your blog deals with travel descriptions and information.

    • Becky March 11, 2015 at 10:12 am #

      The short answer is “not easily” PJ. Very hard to deduct travel expenses when your office and home are on wheels and one and the same.

      • edward March 16, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

        A recent high court ruling determined that deducting travel expenses for a nomadic trucker IS illegal according to an enrolled agent I spoke to two days ago. He said the court ruled you must have a fixed abode where you actually reside a significant (whatever that may be) amount of your time — not just a mailing address.

        This is a seperate issue from the fact that doing so would also mean that your vehicle would then be classed as a commercial vehicle engaged in the production of income which wouls, in turn require commercial vehicle tags and a commercial driver’s license.

        edward

        • Becky March 17, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

          Thanks for clarifying Edward. I knew the gist of it, just not the specifics. 🙂

  5. Rene Kipp March 10, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    I’ve had an Enrolled Agent do our business and personal taxes for a number of years. He has been an asset to us and we plan to continue to use his services once we hit the road. I feel confident in his knowledge (of all things tax related to our situation) having worked with us for nearly 25 years.
    Rene Kipp recently posted..The Trailer Has To Come FirstMy Profile

    • Becky March 11, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      Thanks for sharing Rene. 🙂

  6. Janett March 11, 2015 at 5:33 am #

    With all my free time lately devoted to research (still trailer hunting), I found AARP is setup in various Churches and Libraries free of charge. Your local Library should have current information as the AARP site doesn’t appear updated for 2015. They do not allow appointments, it is on a first come first serve and while they do cater to seniors it’s also availble to middle and lower income as well. Perhaps someone has experience with this but I will be going today promptly at 9AM and hopefully putting another tax season to rest. Although there are a few good things about tax time…we’re all getting closer to cornhole and beach towels!

    • Becky March 11, 2015 at 10:14 am #

      Let us know how it goes for you Janett, sounds like it could be a very handy resource.

    • Janett March 17, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

      Update: Unfortunately AARP Tax Assistance was not able to assist me due to claiming depreciation on my rental home sold late last year. They are not trained for indepth situations however, had I not depreciated they would have completed and submitted my forms right there on the spot!
      The process went like this. When you arrive (with all your forms in hand) they give you a simple questionnaire to complete that you give to the tax preparer when it’s your turn…it’s a first come first serve. The tax preparer then took me into a room where they had setup two tables all complete with laptops and other preparers nicely spaced and talking softly. While my prepared was reviewing my questionnaire I did speak up about my rental and taking the depreciation which was when I was told they couldn’t help me.
      Overall it was a good experience and I walked away thinking I would definitely check into it again next year. So, if your situation is not on the unusual side like mine perhaps it’s worth looking into. Hope this helps out a few here at IO!

      • Becky March 17, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

        Thank you so much for getting back on this Janett!

        Sounds like it is a good service, better luck next year. 🙂

  7. Chris Lisowy March 11, 2015 at 9:57 am #

    $202 is a lot for filing taxes. I use PDF forms and pay $0. I used TurboTax back in 2006, looked what forms were printed from it and next year did all of it by my self. Just downloading PDF fill in forms. I spend few minutes reading “Whats new” section on the instruction PDFs for calendar year and it takes about 6 hours to complete. I have S Corporation and personal taxes. Corp is in NY and my personal taxes are in PA. When I started the business, the accountant wanted $3200 to do our taxes.

    • Becky March 11, 2015 at 10:17 am #

      For someone who’s comfortable with various tax forms Chris, that’s a great solution. For those of us who need/feel better with hand-holding, there is Turbo Tax and other software of it’s ilk. 🙂

  8. Anita March 11, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    I also did our taxes myself for years after we began full-timing. (since 1999). But about 3 years ago, while working at a workkamping job, I made friends with a woman who is an EA = enrolled agent for a tax service part of the year. She offered and I accepted for her to do my taxes that first year. We took her and her husband out to a nice dinner for a “thank you”.

    Note I still have to keep up with all my numbers during the year, and collect them in a logical way at tax time. then send them to her — since we do not physically work together anymore. But it is still such a blessing and relief each year when they are done! Her expertise has saved me at least $1000 over the 3 years on my rental property alone.

    Now, since she will not accept “payment”, that is cash or check. I send her a generous Walmart gift card in a thank you note.

    I never thought of setting us up as a business entity. I will give it some thought.

    Thank you for your well written articles. I enjoy reading them regularly. though I rarely comment.

    Prayers for your continued success, enjoy the journey.

    • Becky March 11, 2015 at 10:20 am #

      Thanks for sharing Anita. It must be great to have a friend like that. 🙂 I’m glad you’ve found this and other articles helpful!

  9. Maura March 11, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

    Kudos to you for doing your own taxes! Everyone should do their own taxes at least a few times because it teaches a person about taxes and their money. The more you do it, the more you learn about tax law and the more you know the better you are to make decisions about your earnings each year.
    Maura recently posted..No Beach Day For UsMy Profile

    • Becky March 11, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

      That’s what my dad said 12 years ago when I started college, haha. I’m glad he took the time to teach me, it’s come in handy.

  10. Terri March 12, 2015 at 11:50 am #

    I hope after all of that, that you got some money back! I’ve been dreading doing mine – started looking at them in January, saw how much I probably owe, and was like “nope, not today.” That day will come soon enough though. Ugh. Good job on powering through it though!
    Terri recently posted..Never Stop Being AmazedMy Profile

    • Becky March 13, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

      I always deduct the cost for Turbo Tax from my refund, so I’m netting $332 from fed + states combined. 😉 Not a bad second Christmas!

      It really helps that I take zero exemptions on all my W-2 jobs, pretty much guarantees I’ll get money back instead of owing it.

      Good luck on getting yours done Terri!

  11. dawn from camano island March 14, 2015 at 7:37 am #

    WOW, Becky! You are a Tax Goddess! Filing in not one but three states along with all of theout-of-the ordinary circumstances would leave most of us a sobbing mass on the floor. But you finished after only 7 hours–that is awesome & amazing! You earned that $332–I hope you take yourselves out to dinner to celebrate another year of tax filings!

  12. dawn from camano island March 14, 2015 at 7:38 am #

    Almost forgot–that weeping rock is cool! I’ve never seen anything like that before! In the Northwet, everything weeps!!

    • Becky March 14, 2015 at 9:38 am #

      With online software filing in multiple states isn’t so hard. It’s not like I’m having to go to each state’s website and deduce which forms to download – the program does it for me and just asks me questions. 😉

      And yes, I’m going to enjoy my $332!

      Enchanted Rock is made of granite which is impermeable to water, but it has cracks and layers. So the water seeps into the cracks into the inner layers and then it has nowhere else to go but out at the bottom, so it exists that layer on top and runs down the sides like that, it is pretty neat.

  13. Joanne parkes March 18, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    Depending on your income recommend you check out a local Volunteer income Tax Assistance office. I volunteer at one in Flagstaff az when not traveling and have served clients with multiple state w-2’s. Service is free but if they are a nonprofit you can donate to the organization which also serve many low income families.

    • Becky March 18, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

      Good to know Joanne, thanks for sharing!

  14. Tom March 19, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

    Has anyone mentioned FreeFile?

    http://www.irs.gov/uac/Free-File:-Do-Your-Federal-Taxes-for-Free

    This is an IRS sponsored access to free tax filing software for incomes under 60K. I am retired, have a fairly simple tax situation and use this and have for several years. I was able to handle and file my Federal and State return electronically using turbotax at no charge, in a little over an hour of punching in numbers.

    If you do your own once more, you should start here before purchasing any software.

    • Becky March 20, 2015 at 9:11 am #

      Thanks for sharing Tom!

  15. Ron April 1, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

    I use TaxAct and fulltime out of SD. The federal deluxe is $12.95 and each state is $14.95. Have used this company for years and am very happy with them. Now these are online prices and downloading the software.

    • Becky April 2, 2015 at 8:12 am #

      Thanks for sharing Ron, that’s a good price. I wonder if they allow business filing on it?

  16. Gary January 18, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

    Becky,

    You should check out H&R Block tax software. It always goes on sale in Dec/Jan for $39 and unlike Turbotax, you don’t have to buy the business edition. Home and Office edition has the schedule C you need for IO. You can import your previous Turbotax return into the new software. A former IRS commissioner says to never file online. Always print out the paper copy and mail. If you do these tweak things, you’ll cut your tax preparer expenses significantly.

    • Becky January 19, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

      Thanks for the advice Gary.

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