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Your Zine and the Taxman, cont'd

Save Your Receipts!

Keep records, flyers, receipts, etc. If you can prove the tour happened, produce phone numbers of promoters, copies of your zine, etc., you're risk free. You don't need to have a receipt for every fuckin' thing. At the worst, you'll have to call some stores and get a written quote or appraisal. As long as you can produce the equipment you're writing off, I wouldn't worry. They don't want to have to argue with you!
A lot of you may be scared of all this, thinking that it's a lot of trouble and fearing an audit. You're not alone; the IRS intimidates most people. But if you are reasonable in your figures and fill the forms out properly, the odds of being contacted by the government are slim.
There have been a lot of changes at the IRS recently. Significant revisions have occurred in tax laws, but the IRS itself has also been reorganized. They have been heavily critiqued and restructured by legislature in recent years, and are attempting to improve their approach and image with both the public and the media. They want to be seen as accurate and efficient, not nosy and mean. They have been drastically downsized in personnel and are moving toward the electronic/ Internet age (ten years after the rest of us!) If your figures don't drift beyond the statistical norm for your business, no one's going to bug you.
The IRS announced that it's primary focus on fraud in 1997 would be on the Earned Income Credit, specifically men claiming dependents they have not claimed in previous years. Remember that their goal is to void refund checks as quickly and easily as possible. They don't want to go to court!
It's easy to prove a child wasn't living with someone, and a lot of people are abusing the EIC. Keep in mind these are checks for $3656! I'm sorry, but your $3000 to $6000 loss, giving you an extra $450 to $900 (at 15 percent tax rate) is not worth the IRS's time or money.
If they do check you out, as long as you don't have a Maserati in the garage you're fine. They'll see that you aren't hiding vast amounts of money and leave you alone.

Getting Help
The IRS: You can get forms and free information from the IRS's web site. Request Publication 910 (Guide to Free Tax Services), a great source of addresses, phone numbers, and explanations of the different publications and forms available. Another helpful aide is Publication 334 (Tax Guide For Small Business), which explains the Schedule C in detail. For information from the IRS, phone (800) 829-1040. For forms and publications, phone (800) 829-3676 or download them online.
Tax Professionals: This may be convenient if you don't have the time or patience to learn all the information you need. They are very accurate and confidential, which saves you a lot of worry and headaches. Most also offer electronic filing, which results in a quicker acknowledgement and refund from the IRS. The IRS doesn't focus as much on these returns; they rely on the fact that the paid preparer completed the forms accurately. Be prepared to spend $50 to $80 for the preparation. Electronic filing is a little extra.
You can have the fees taken out of your check at most places, but they're gonna charge you extra. ($40 to $100) Save yourself some time and call ahead for an appointment. Three-hour waits are common at the office I work at!
Find out what information you'll need: W-2s, identification, etc. A photo ID and Social Security card are usually a must. Have the totals already prepared for each of your expenses, tell the preparer that you have the receipts at home. Its easier on them, and some places charge extra for adding up receipts. You could also call these places with specific problems you incur while filling the forms out yourself, the people are extremely helpful. I work for a chain, and our office is often called by the central office with oddball tax questions just to make sure we know our shit. Be firm and don't let them pressure you into scheduling an appointment, just ask for answers!
Free Services: Many colleges and libraries have volunteer tax preparers during tax season. Most libraries also have forms and government tax publications.
Computer Software: There are many software packages available to make tax preparation easier. I don't own a computer, so I can't recommend any in particular. Check it out for yourself, I'm sure they're all pretty helpful.