Whether you’re doing SEO for your own websites or for clients, one thing remains the same – SEO spend a lot of money on shit to get things done. And guess what, you can probably write off most of those expenses on your income taxes each year.
Before we dig into this topic, let me start with a standard disclaimer – I am not a tax professional and you should totally check in with your accountant or other tax pro before taking any advice from me (or anyone else on the internet) as tax truth.
Also, tax laws tend to change regularly, so something you could write off last year might not be eligible this year. You’ve got to check that shit – or pay a professional who does the checking for you.
I should also mention that as an American, most of the stuff I’m going to be talking about is relevant for Americans…though I do have to file taxes in the Netherlands this year, so I’ve got some tips about that. Even if you’re in neither of those countries, I hope that what I discuss gives you some ideas of things to ask your accountant about in your country of residence.
And if you absolutely hate this topic, then you can thank Graham in the comments cause he asked for it. You can also thank him if you enjoy it!
Tax Deductions And Expenses In General
Over the last decade I’ve filed taxes in the USA as a self-employed freelancer, as a business designated as a partnership, and as a business that’s taxed as a corporation. And before that I actually spent a few years working as a tax accountant for big corporations like Nissan and Time Warner.
So, I like to think that I have a decent grasp on what you can expense, but the truth is that I’m not living and breathing tax law. Again, please remember that these days I’m really just a pleeb like you when it comes to this stuff.
The simplest way to know what you can expense for your business is to ask yourself – is this something that I need for the business? and it is something that similar businesses would also expense?
Here’s a good general example for you.
Let’s say that I bought myself a fancy $6,000 massage chair and want to claim it as an expense cause dealing with the endless Google updates is so fucking stressful.
Sounds convincing, eh? While you can get away with writing off the purchase of a desk chair, this kind of extravagance just won’t cut it with the IRS.
Writing off expenses also requires that the item you’re writing off is something that is used either exclusively or primarily (not sure which, so check on that with your tax pro) for business.
So, if I bought a new laptop and only used it for SEO work, then it would qualify as something to write off. But if I also used that laptop as my gaming laptop, then I probably shouldn’t try to write it off.
And yes, I know what you’re thinking right now – how will the IRS or any other tax official prove that I don’t use it exclusively for business. The truth is that I don’t even know if they’d try to prove it – or if they could.
You can probably get away with it if the cost isn’t anything outside the norm for the industry.
However, I don’t really like the idea of a tax audit, so this is one area in life where I try to always color within the lines.
Examples Of Things SEOs Might Write Off As An Expense
Now that we’ve discussed what qualifies as an expense that you can write off, let’s look at some examples that might be relevant to you.
- PPC ads
- Sponsored posts
- Business cards (if you’re doing real world networking)
- Buying links
- Your website registration and hosting costs
- WordPress themes and plugins
- Tailwind subscription
General cost of business expenses:
- Accounting software fees
- Bank fees
- Lawyer fees
- Intellectual property fees (trademark registration)
- Business creation fees
- UPS Store box rental fees
- Co-working office space rental fees
Other things that might be valid expenses:
- Office equipment (computer, printer, monitor, podcast studio equipment)
- Coffee and water for the office (if you have a brick and mortar location)
- Company events and retreats
- Gifts you send out to other businesses/clients
- The mileage you rack up driving to meet clients/attending events
- Public transport fees spent to meet clients/attending events
- Tolls and parking fees spent on meeting clients/attending events
- The cost to attend an industry event, i.e. SEO conference
- Business meals when you meet clients or attend events
- Industry subscriptions, like my private Facebook group or a paid newsletter
- The fees you pay a content agency for content for sites
- The fees you pay a CRO specialist for CRO work on your sites
- Books that are relevant to your job/industry
- Courses that help further your education in the industry (hey, like my course!)
Those are just the things that I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure there are plenty of things that I’ve left out…and probably some that I’ve included that I shouldn’t have listed.
Either way, I hope it’s given you some ideas of what you might be able to write off.
It Varies By Country
Since moving to the Netherlands, I’ve been surprised by how the tax law varies when it comes to writing things off for my business.
For instance, I didn’t have my Dutch bank card when I started ordering things like my desk and office chair. So, those went on my personal credit card and my accountant tells me that I cannot expense them because the invoice does not have the business name on it!
I was also surprised to learn that in the Netherlands, you cannot write off your home office area as an expense unless you have a separate door AND a separate toilet for the business. (Though I think that write off was just phased out in the USA).
Also, who the fuck can afford a home with more than one toilet in this country?!?
Anyways, all that to show you how different things can be from one country to the next.
So, check in with a local tax pro or see what your country’s tax office has listed on their website to get a better idea of what is and what is not allowed for you and your business.
And remember, you can also send me your requests for future blog post topics!
Hey, I’m Shawna. I make a living working from my laptop in places like London, Sydney, Dubai, Rome, Oslo, Bangkok, Las Vegas, and (currently) Amsterdam. I share how I do some of that on this website.
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