Californians have another 7 and a half hours to file their taxes. If you haven't started yet, it's time to jump on TurboTax.com and get cracking. This will be my first year filing taxes without a W-2. As a freelancer, I've been looking for tips on deductions and tax filing in general. MORE
This comment thread over on Gawker is useful and so is this Wired column. Lifehacker has more tips, including this important one: If you haven't finished your taxes by now, just file an extension. Most of the rest of the advice amounts to "keep records," which is a bit late now. Here's what my dad, self-employed for 20+ years had to say:
If you are really a freelancer, then you are self-employed and you don't use Form 8829. Instead all your expenses (and income) show up on Schedule C. Sweet!(Photo by dizznbonn)
How to tell: if you receive a W-2 then you are an employee. If you receive a 1099-MISC then you are self-employed. (If you get nothing then your client is a bozo and you are self-employed.)
Like many of the responders said, get really creative with your expenses. Not illegal, just... creative. Keep track of EVERY expense in a diary or DayTimer (nothing keeps IRS at bay like contemporary written records). Keep track of business mileage ($.405 per mile or something).
Don't depreciate. Computers, books, software, can all be expensed in the first year (up to $19k or some such limit).
File fed and state quarterly payments.
You can lose money (have much more expenses than income) for a while. 2 out of 5 years, say. Eventually you'd better make some money. But those first few years, yowza, you can deduct all those cool computers and phones you use to write your columns.
Hope this helps...