Friday, June 1, 2012

Official Business

There is a lot of business to this writing business. This week's new thing: a business license. I was informed by my local city treasurer that I am required to pay for a business license and apply for a home business occupancy permit. It made me grumpy.

I'm not averse to paying taxes that I owe or to following rules. So in that spirit I have dutifully filled out paperwork and enclosed a check. I'm not entirely sure what this license is going to buy me--I don't exactly have a steady stream of clientele visiting my office (except the fictional people in my head, but they don't need parking spaces or bother the neighbors. Usually.). I won't have any undue number of packages being delivered or picked up. No crazy additions to the house.

Heck, when I was asked to specify how many square feet of my house I intended to use for the business, I almost answered "2" (one for the laptop, one for the netbook...some nights its just more comfortable to write from the couch than the desk). Instead, I played nice and estimated the square footage of my office at an overly generous 150 (its probably closer to 120).  I didn't even claim my home office on my taxes because the IRS has a lot of stringent rules about it having to be purely business and never personal, and how on earth do I explain that to the cats who like to nap in my chair? (and the printer gets used by the entire household even though it resides in my office).

Amusingly, in this town, "professional engineers" are exempt from the business license requirement (as are priests, teachers, and auctioneers. Why auctioneers and not writers?). As I am an engineer by day, I could have pleaded exemption, but I was kind afraid that the all-knowing city would google me and decide that engineers don't generally include hot steam-room sex scenes in their technical documentation. Though that might encourage end users to actually read online help.

Writers: be aware of local ordinances. If you open a post office box (which I did), or if you claim business expenses on your taxes (which I also did), then some nice local official may decide that you are, indeed, a business and request to know the names of your employees (I judiciously decided against mentioning the cats, the kids, my current hero/heroine, or my husband-aka-Director-of-Research-slash-Facilties-Manager).

For next year, I am seriously considering re-locating the family printer and putting the furballs on my payroll. If I have to pay for a license to play make-believe in my own private library, I may as well get a tax break for my trouble.

1 comment:

Caryn Caldwell said...

Wow. This is good to know. I had no idea. Thanks! And good for you for being honest. :-)