I am a Certified Public Accountant turned travel content creator! As an inactive, unregistered CPA, this blog post about tax deductions for bloggers and influencers should not be taken as professional advice. It is merely an informational guide with personal experience.
I’ve been a travel blogger and influencer now for six years! How time flies. In that time, I’ve learned the many ins and outs of tax deductions for bloggers and influencers.
It might seem confusing at first but once you know what to claim as an expense, it becomes yet another part of your content creating business just like taking photos or writing captions is!
In this post, I’ll teach you everything that’s helped me keep track of my expenses and file taxes smoothly with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). I promise it won’t be as complicated and/or boring as it sounds!
This post was written in conjunction with Lumanu, an app for freelancers that I use myself. All insight comes from my personal experience. This post may also contain affiliate links. Purchases made through genuinely recommended links may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.
About Me and My Blogging Accounting Experience
In this post, I may refer to myself as a blogger, influencer or content creator. That’s because I have two blogs, four TikTok accounts, one Instagram account and two Pinterest accounts and have created content for brands
Before I dive into everything you want to know about taking tax deductions as a blogger or influencer, I’d love to share my experience with both blogging and accounting.
6 Years of Blogging, Influencer and Content Creator Experience
My name is Sarah Chetrit and I first started out as a travel blogger in 2015.
Shortly after, I noticed Instagram was getting quite popular so I also became a travel influencer on Instagram. I share my best travel tips and teach people how to get paid to travel like me on there- @sarchetrit.
By 2019, I had been paid to travel by various tourism boards (i.e. Los Angeles, Aruba, Champagne, etc.) and brands (Nike, Herbal Essence, etc.) to highlight the best places to travel and eat around the world and share some of my favorite brands. I have also created content for brands like American Express, Afterpay and Nomador.
In 2020, because of the pandemic, I had more time on my hands so I started to teach people how to make money blogging like me! I started this very blog you’re on now and my blogging and social media TikTok account @sarah.chetrit.
Blogging Accounting Experience
Out of these six years of blogging, I did my own accounting for four years. Recently I started using an accounting program for creatives but still do my own bookkeeping and even do my taxes without a tax accountant or program.
I’m able to do my own bookkeeping and taxes without a tax accountant or program because before I was a blogger, I was a Certified Public Accountant in the State of New York. I am currently inactive and unregistered so anything you read in this post should not be taken as professional advice.
My field of training was actually in auditing, not bookkeeping, but my background as helped me understand the IRS’s website on deducting business expenses for small businesses and self-employed aka influencers, bloggers and freelancers, which has made it easy to do my own bookkeeping.
In my opinion, it might seem confusing but once you know these standard tax deductions for bloggers and you have a good method of keeping track of your expenses, it’s actually quite simple!
Let’s get into everything you need to know on tax deductions for bloggers, influencers and even freelancers.
Must Know Before We Start
As a self-employed freelancer, I file as a sole proprietor using tax form Schedule C. As a result, the following information is based on my experience of tax filings as a sole proprietor.
Also, the followings words may be used interchangeably and for the purposes of this post mean the same thing:
- sole proprietor
- content creator
Information in this post is a response to how I’ve heard bloggers and influencers talk about their taxes and the lingo they use. It is for beginners.
All the advice stated in this blog post is regarding accounting for the IRS in the United States of America and no other country. Tax laws change from country to country so if you’re not from the US, this post is not for you.
No matter what information I share, this should not be taken as professional advice and it is always best to work with an accountant for influencers so you can get custom information for your specific business.
What are tax deductions?
Tax deductions are deductions you take from your income BEFORE how much tax you owe is calculated.
However, there are two ways to look at tax deductions or at least this is how I see it:
- as a salaried/hourly employee
- and as a business/sole proprietor
This will really clear up the confusion about deductions as a salaried/hourly employee vs. a business/sole proprietor.
As a Salaried/Hourly Employee
As a salaried or hourly employee, you are probably used to filling out your W2 by:
- adding in your wages, salaries, tips, etc. on Line 1,
- then taking a standard or itemized deduction in Line 12, which comes from Schedule A.
Taking one of these deductions reduces your taxable income, which is what is used to calculate how much tax you owe. Again, a deduction occurs BEFORE how much tax you owe is calculated.
Standard vs Itemized Deduction
The standard deduction is a prescribed number that the government allows you to deduct based on your marital/household status. But you could also do an itemized deduction for personal qualifying expenses such as property tax, medical expenses, charity donations, etc.
Most people take the standard deduction because they have not incurred enough qualifying expenses to make their itemized deduction higher than the standard deduction.
For example, the standard deduction for a single taxpayer is $12,400 for 2021. A taxpayer would choose to take the standard deduction if their property taxes, medical expenses, etc. are less than $12,400.
A taxpayer would want to take the biggest deduction possible to make their taxable income as low as possible.
Does a blogger take a standard or itemized deduction?
As a blogger or influencer, you get this standard or itemized deduction just like everyone else because you too would fill out the Form 1040 for your taxes.
Which one you take would depend on the personal deductions you have in your life (property taxes, medical expenses, etc.)
For the sake of understanding how deductions work, let’s consider the standard or itemized deduction as a personal deduction.
As a Business/Sole Proprietor
As a blogger, influencer, content creator or freelancer, you own your own business.
In the eyes of the IRS, you are a sole proprietor unless you register as an LLC, which many bloggers do but this post does not go into that at all.
Since you are a business, you also have business expenses.
These business expenses are what reduces your business’ taxable income. This is calculated in Schedule C, which then flows into Line 3 of Schedule 1 and then eventually flows into Line 8 of Form 1040.
If you hear a blogger saying they deducted their website hosting or that they wrote-off a trip they went on, they are actually talking about their business expenses, NOT their personal standard or itemized deduction that we talked about above.
For the sake of understanding how deductions work, let’s consider business expenses as business expenses, write-offs or business deductions (NOT the personal standard or itemized deduction that we talked about above).
What are tax write-offs?
If you ever hear a blogger talking about a tax write-off, they are talking about a business tax deduction or a business expense.
Tax deductions, tax write-offs or business expenses for bloggers and influencers all refer to these costs spent to run a freelance or content creating business.
What are tax credits?
Often people get confused between tax deductions and tax credits. They are NOT the same thing.
Personal tax deductions lower your taxable income BEFORE how much tax you owe is calculated.
Business tax deductions aka write-offs aka expenses lower your business’ income BEFORE how much tax you owe is calculated.
Tax credits reduce your tax payment AFTER how much tax you owe is calculated.
Why do I want to take tax deductions or tax write-off?
Whether you take a personal standard or itemized deduction or business deductions aka write-offs aka expenses, these all reduce your taxable income.
The lower your taxable income is, the less taxes you will have to pay on that amount.
Can I claim tax deductions as a blogger or influencer?
Yes, as a blogger or influencer, you can claim your personal standard or itemized deductions.
Then you can also claim you can definitely claim business tax deductions as a blogger or influencer as long as you follow the IRS’ rule about whether you are a business or a hobby.
The IRS website makes it really easy and clear to determine whether your business is actually a business or if it’s a hobby. Here are the nine factors they use to determine this.
They want you to consider:
- “Whether you carry on the activity in a businesslike manner and maintain complete and accurate books and records.
- Whether you have personal motives in carrying on the activity.
- Whether the time and effort you put into the activity indicate you intend to make it profitable.
- Whether you depend on income from the activity for your livelihood.
- Whether your losses are due to circumstances beyond your control (or are normal in the startup phase of your type of business).
- Whether you or your advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business.
- Whether you were successful in making a profit in similar activities in the past.
- Whether the activity makes a profit in some years and how much profit it makes.
- Whether you can expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of the assets used in the activity.”
If you are a business, you can claim the business tax deductions.
If your activity is a hobby, you cannot claim these business tax deductions.
What are specific tax deductions for bloggers and influencers?
Besides your personal standard or itemized deduction, there are many tax deductions for bloggers and influencers.
Again, from the eyes of the IRS, you are a sole proprietor or the owner of your own business so you can take tax deductions that would fall under Expenses shown in Schedule C (the form for Sole Proprietors).
As mentioned above, tax deductions are also known as businesses expenses or business write-offs.
Common Expenses for Bloggers, Creators, etc.
Whether you are a blogger, freelancer or content creator, there are common tax deductions you would take.
Here are a few I personally take myself.
If you use your phone to talk with clients, post to social media, create videos, etc., you can deduct part of your phone bill that you use for business.
This is the same for internet usage, water, gas, electricity, etc. See Home Office section below for more details on this.
Office Supplies + Equipment
You can deduct office supplies such as pens, cartridge ink and paper.
You can also deduct equipment like laptops, monitors, camera, SD cards, extra batteries, video camera, any camera gear, tripod, etc. since you use them for your business, and they help your business bring in income.
However, since laptops and certain items last longer than a year, you cannot just deduct the cost in whole when you buy them.
Instead, you have to depreciate them over a few years, which means that you deduct only a portion of the equipment each year (vs. expensing everything all at once the day you buy it).
Since these equipment tax deductions for bloggers get a bit complicated because of depreciation, reach out to your accountant to clarify your specific situation.
As a travel blogger, travel is an ordinary and necessary part of my business. Thus, I expense everything related to travel that helps me make content.
You can even expense travel if you are not a travel blogger but do work while you are traveling. These tax deductions for bloggers include are not limited to:
- airfare or train costs,
- car rentals,
- car mileage,
- gas for car,
- car parking, etc.
Meals & Entertainment
For meals and entertainment, generally, you can only deduct 50% of it.
For example, if you are traveling abroad for work and you buy food at the airport that goes $20, you can only expense $10.
However, if you are working at home and order UberEats, then you cannot deduct this. This is not an ordinary and necessary expense of working from home since you can cook at home, or even if you were at a WeWork, you could bring your own lunch to work.
For 2021 to 2022, the IRS is allowing a 100% deduction on food and beverages from restaurants (but not grocery stores or convenient stores).
You can expense any items that you use for your home office such as desks and chairs. Remember that anything that lasts more than a year has to be depreciated, not fully expensed right away.
Even better, you can expense a portion of your home office such as:
- rent or mortgage interest,
- qualified mortgage insurance premiums,
- renter’s or home insurance, etc.
Remember that these home tax deductions for bloggers have to be reasonable. As a result, most people will measure the square footage of the space they use for their home office and attribute that portion to their home office deductions.
If by year end a client hasn’t paid you, you can deduct this as a loss, which will reduce your taxable income.
I hope you never experience this. To reduce the chances of being paid, invoice with the Lumanu invoicing app. Their team will chase down payments that are late for you!
Here are some other miscellaneous tax deduction for bloggers that I personally take.
- Online storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox or Amazon Cloud
- Professional services such as writers, social media managers, influencer managers, etc.
- Advertising (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google)
- Giveaway prizes
Specific Tax Deductions for Bloggers
There are specific tax deductions for bloggers since bloggers own a website. These tax deductions include but are not limited to your blogging costs related to:
- Hosting (i.e. Bluehost, Siteground)
- Website Theme
- Website developer
- SEO course for bloggers
- Affiliate marketing course for bloggers
- Books for bloggers
There’s one cost you won’t have to deduct though because this blogging course of mine is free!
Specific Social Media Influencer Tax Deductions
You can expense these items that are necessary for your social media influencer business to run. They may include but are not limited to:
- Social media scheduler (i.e. Planoly for Instagram, Tailwind for Pinterest)
- Design app (i.e. Canva or Adobe)
- Photo and video editing apps (i.e. Adobe, Tezza, Final Cut Pro)
- Hashtag finder for Instagram
You can also expense courses and books you buy specific to being an influencer.
FYI All items listed above are ones I personally use myself!
Tax Deduction That Bloggers and Influencers May or May Not Be Able to Take
One of the most common questions I get asked is, “Can I deduct my clothes (i.e. clothing haul) as an influencer?”
Normally, you can only deduct clothes if it’s absolutely necessary for your job.
A nurse’s scrubs are a really clear cut example of this. They absolutely need their clothes to work and they only use their scrubs at work. They do not wear their scrubs out and about in their regular life.
With influencing and blogging, clothing and items you use in both your business and content creating life are probably the most confusing tax deductions for bloggers and influencers since our work and personal life cross over so much.
For example, if a female travel blogger buys dresses to wear in her clothes but then also wears it out with her friends and in her personal life, then the IRS probably would not count this as an expense.
However, if a travel blogger’s thing is to wear gorgeous prom dresses at stunning locations and only wears these dresses at these Instagrammable places, then she could argue that this is an ordinary and necessary expense.
Another example in which an influencer could argue that fashion-related expenses are necessary to their business is if they do fashion hauls.
What happens if the IRS audits you and doesn’t accept your expense?
If the IRS audits you and doesn’t accept your expense such as with clothing, then that’ll simply increase your taxable income and you will have to pay taxes on it.
Please consult an accountant for influencers who will help you best decide what you can and cannot expense. This post should not be taken as professional advice.
How do you keep track of expenses as a freelance content creator?
Keeping track of expenses aka tax deductions for bloggers does not have to be as complicated as you think.
In the first four years of blogging, I used a simple Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my income and expenses because bookkeeping for influencers is not too complicated. In the last two years of blogging, I have been using an accounting program for creatives since I’m physically located in the Netherlands and wanted to simplify how I do accounting in both the Netherlands and US combined.
If you need a little more guidance with keeping track of your tax deductions for bloggers and influencers, then keep an eye out for Lumanu’s new expensing tool.
I personally use Lumanu to invoice my clients in the US because there’s no fees and it’s unbelievably easy to use. Considering how great their invoicing function is, I cannot wait for their expensing tool!
Get exclusive access to Lumanu here.
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Please let me know in the comments below if you found this post about tax deductions for bloggers and influencers to be helpful!
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Until next time,