Taylor Herrick—accountant, tax lawyer, and all-around nice guy—was the first non-family-member person to believe in my writing career. I hadn’t published or bought a VW bus; I hadn’t even completed my undergrad when I started going to him to file my tax return. I was nineteen and working two or three jobs and going to school and what I knew was that when I filed my tax return with Taylor, I got back more money than when I used Big Name Company the year before. Taylor asked questions I didn’t know were relevant and we started to write things off. Somewhere in our conversations I said I was thinking of making a career out of creative writing.
When you say you want to make a career out of creative writing in America, it means you are either independently wealthy, you plan to be poor, or you’re a ghost writer for James Patterson. Taylor treated me seriously though. We talked about the various write-offs a writer can claim (square footage of the house and corresponding percentage of bills is an important one). We talked about revenue streams (talks and contest judging are more consistent ways to make money as a writer than writing as it turns out). But most importantly, Taylor always set me up for something bigger. I have been working with Taylor for nearly 20 years now and he has believed in me the entire time and has always, without fail, set me up for something better each year. (For perspective: those 20 years have seen me buy a house, get married, publish two books internationally with tax returns for Britain, work multiple jobs with different pay classifications—stipends, grants, contracts from Britain and Australia, salary, hourly, etc.—get divorced, pull my retirement and reinvest it, get remarried, start a small business, and, yes, hit the road to make a podcast. Taylor takes my antics in stride and always, always sets me up for success.)
The planning for our 14-month road trip across 49 states in our 1979 VW Bus with the ambition to produce a podcast took about a year to plan. Taylor was essential. He guided us through the write-offs for the bus. (Vehicles can be claimed by mileage or by total cost and amoratized. If you happen to own a bus and use it for business purposes, you will likely reap greater tax benefits by using total cost. We certainly did.) We strategized what to claim in what years and how to roll expenses into the next year when I planned to pull a conventional W2 type of job. He let us know what we could claim on the road and how to catalog it for an itemized return.
Even though my income for 2022 was less than $10,000 and our expenses were triple (actually more like quadruple) that amount, we are in stable condition. We planned wisely with lots of guidance from Taylor.* Our return this year isn’t huge, but the financial loss of 2022 will help reduce tax burdens over the next several years and get us back more money in 2024. The podcast and trip was part of a larger endeavor, a bigger plan we have set up with Taylor. I’m finishing up the draft of a nonfiction book that is, in some part, about the road trip. I have a second book in the early draft stages that focuses more directly on the trip and the podcast, the people we met and what we discovered while driving the backroads of North American for over a year. Neither book will make me rich, I know. It might be enough to buy another VW or remodel a bathroom if I’m lucky. Whatever happens we know we are set up for the next adventure, the next success thanks to Taylor.
Full disclosure: I am writing this glowing article because I want to. I have grown to consider Taylor a friend and I think he’s a super smart guy with a good heart (his business partner is his dog, Jasper!). I can’t speak for Taylor, but in my experience he is always willing to talk to folks during non-tax season about their businesses and write-offs. If you are a creative professional, there’s probably a lot of write-offs you can claim. If you have a small business, there’s ways to maximize your deductions. If you’ve bought an VW for your business, chances are you can make back a portion of the money you’re pouring into it by claiming total cost. Give Taylor a call. Set up a phone consultation and hear his advice; you won’t regret it.
Phone: 937 988-0370
*I’d be completely remiss if I did not mention a few key things: Before leaving on the trip I had a good job making about $80K/year, which made saving money very easy, especially since our rent was very, very low. I also had the added benefit of investments. I began investing my extra money when I dropped out of school for a year and then I subsequently secured a job with the state which, at the time, had a robust retirement program (the same cannot be said anymore). I had the money to invest because I did not have student loans—the long-term affect of which would have crushed this whole venture. I went to college at a time when school was affordable and far less predatory. Small business owners (I am one, by the way) can bellyache about debt forgiveness, but please remember I was able to drop $30K at small businesses across the US because I didn’t have student loans and therefore more disposable income to spend on things like VW bus parts and avocado toast. And lastly, a billionaire funded our healthcare coverage. American healthcare is sinfully expensive and through my connections to the Jan Michalski Foundation in Switzerland (where I had a been a writer-in-residence in 2019), I was able to secure funding for our healthcare from a Swiss billionaire who isn’t spending her fortune blasting herself into space, but instead investing in creative projects like ours.
2 thoughts on “The bus, my taxes, and writing as a career choice”
Nice tribute to your helpful friend. I’m eager to see your trip book! And, I think James Patterson writes trite crap.
When you go to Taylor about your taxes, you know that you have gotten all the deduction possible and what you know needed to do in the future. He is a great guy and thank you for telling Jane about him. Where else can you get your taxes done and pet a dog.