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Recordkeeping Resolutions

By Sue Greenberg, executive director

As we look ahead to a better 2023, here’s a suggestion that will pay off: Take deliberate control of your creative business by making a commitment to recordkeeping. Start with banking. You should have a separate credit card and a separate checking account for your creative business. If you use digital wallet apps like Venmo, Apple Pay, PayPal or Zelle set up business accounts. Don’t co-mingle personal and business funds!

A complete set of records will help you track your income, assets, and expenses. Additionally, your records (including how you spend your time) are among the most effective tools for assessing how you are doing (financially), projecting cash-flow, re-evaluating your approach to pricing or setting fees, establishing priorities, and planning for the future. Good records will help you draft a compelling grant proposal or commission budget. And, as we learned during the height of the pandemic, accurate records are needed when filing for unemployment benefits.

How about taxes? Without complete and well-organized records, you’ll be unable to prepare and support your tax returns, especially Schedule C, which is filed when you earn income through self-employment or a limited liability company (LLC). Even worse, you may pay more taxes than you really owe if you misplace a receipt that could translate into a deduction. If you’re audited, you’ll be expected to prove that your records reflect your entire income and expenses, typically on a calendar-year basis.

Invoices, contracts, copies of checks, receipts you give customers, bank records (which can be exported into Excel), W-2 Forms, and 1099 Forms will make up your income paper trail.

Your assets are the property and equipment you use for your business. Keep a complete and detailed record of these assets, including when you acquired them and the cost. These records will allow you to properly depreciate the assets and report the correct gain or loss upon disposal.

To track expenses, your records should include who was paid, for what, when, and why. Sales receipts (Hint: scan or copy those fast-fading thermal paper receipts.), credit card slips, and bank transactions. Other important records are regular entries in your calendar and a business-mileage log. Popular mileage apps include: Mile IQ, Everlance, TripLog, and BizXpenseTracker Live.

Does recordkeeping seem daunting? The secret is to come up with a system that works for you. It can be a notepad, large labeled envelopes, Excel spreadsheets, Quicken or QuickBooks, or apps such as WAVE Financial, Mint, YNAB and Yodlee Money. Since many artists are partially or totally self-employed for tax purposes, you may want to look at Schedule C, where you’ll see expense categories. They’re flexible (e.g. advertising could be your website).

Finally, don’t make your recordkeeping system too cumbersome or you’ll fall off the wagon — just like those new gym members with good intentions in January who stop working out in March.