With this venture into the waters of retail commerce, we are once more in the position of newbies, flailing around desperately for our footing. One item that we are realizing we really did not give quite enough thought to was the matter of taxes. Specifically: when you travel to another state and sell at a convention, how to report taxes. (Not through your home state, apparently!)
There are forms and phone calls and registrations and endless paperwork — not just for every state, but in some cases (Maryland, for instance), for each distinct daggone county. Le sigh… and arrrgh. On the bright side, this is a fabulous educational opportunity, so we’ll be passing along what we learn as we go.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that we are not claiming to be the final authority on any legal matter–please double and triple check with your relevant local departments before following anything we say here about taxes and forms and filing. One of the things we’ve already found is a startling lack of consistency and communication between departments; one person says the law is thisnsuch, but calling back and speaking to another person in the same department can give you an entirely different answer, let alone talking to people across different departments. It’s maddening and worrisome, so the first tip we offer is this: double check. Triple check. Talk to a lawyer or accountant. Read the source law for yourself if possible (yes, we know, it’s horrible heavy stuff). Don’t skimp on this step or you’re seriously asking for trouble.
Deadlines: Make sure that you know whether you’re filing quarterly or monthly. Your home state may allow quarterly, but any temporary licenses will probably require monthly, so know what each state expects by way of a deadline–one place may ask for the end of the month, while another may ask for the taxes to be filed within 2 weeks of the end date of the event! Again, it alllllll differs from state to state. Set the time aside to look it all up and make phone calls as needed to clarify questions.
(Oh, and even if you haven’t made any money at all, you still have to file the report or you’re going to get hit with a penalty–which is absurd, but there you have it. )
Organization is key. Keep all your papers properly filed and within reach of your work station. Make backup copies of everything–every. fucking. thing–and store them with a trustworthy friend. Keep digital copies of print and print copies of digital items. Go for triple redundancy. You never know, your house could burn down, your dog could pee all over your file cabinet, Oz could send the flying monkeys after you. Duplicate, duplicate, duplicate. And for the love of all that’s holy, use one of the free or low cost e-backup systems–your ISP may well provide a perfectly good free backup service. Don’t trust Yahoo or Google. (Did we really need to say that last part? Seriously? Is anyone out there actually using either of those two as a backup for critical documents? Can we just come smack you around right now?)
This post will continue to evolve as we go forward, and we’re always happy to hear about individual tips–especially from non-U.S.A. residents. What are the tax laws like out there in the larger world? What frustrations do you encounter, what advice do you have? We wanna know….