When my girlfriend (now wife) graduated from college she had a BFA in photography. The decision was made that she was going to use that and the experience she already had to set out on her own and try to build a business that could eventually support her full time. So this meant art fairs, galleries, weddings, and portrait sessions. Considering she was living with an accountant it was always just assumed that I’d be running the business side of things. Since my father, sister-in-law, and now wife are all photographers I’ve been involved in the photography industry literally my entirely life. This however has me in a much more involved role.
Over the years I’ve become a part of many photography related online groups. There’s a term that you’ll hear a wedding photographer use every so often, “Uncle Bob”. This generally refer to someone who was planning on using a professional photographer but ultimately decided to use a friend of family member who has a “nice camera”. Some times this works out well for them, but usually….not so well.
These groups are a great place for photographers to talk about equipment, vent about clients, critique images, etc. These are all things that the average member of the group is more than qualified to talk about. Since these groups also have large numbers of fledgling business owners its inevitable that tax questions get asked. These questions always get answers that start with, I’m not sure, but… or I think… Some of these people do point out that they’re not sure of the answer, but I’ve seen several people give advice that they were certain 100% sure of, but it was actually completely wrong. I’ve actually had one person tell me I was wrong about something because the website he used for his taxes let him do it. If everything the internet was true then this post would be about how I’m actually a retired millionaire thanks to the money I got from a Nigerian prince.
I’m picking on photographers a little here because that’s the easiest example for me to make. This however happens in every industry. Get people together and someone is going to pass along some bad advice. Your taxes are far too important to trust to Uncle Bob. A seemingly small mistake can have huge ramifications. The tax code is tens of thousands of pages long and a lot of it changes every year. If you have a tax question you need to talk to someone who is qualified to answer your questions. Your two best sources are going to be either an EA (certified tax expert) or a CPA (accounting generalist that sometimes specialize in taxation). Especially if you are about to, or recently started a business, you need to have a conversation with an accountant. They’re not as expensive you might think and many (myself included) offer free initial consultations.