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Taxes and website

Collision Course is still in the process of being proofed by my meticulous wife. I believe she's about at the half-way point. While she's been proofing, I've been learning how to build a website.

My current website isn't that bad but it's not complete. I also realized when I built it that the JavaScript code driving two of the pages was not written using techniques that are recognized as acceptable in professional programming circles. I sought out some advice, learned a bit about jQuery and then started work on version 2. I haven't updated the live site yet, but I'm closing in on a site that will look very similar to what is seen now but has more professional-looking code driving it.

One of my primary goals is to keep the site simple and easy to use on any platform from small cell phones to giant multi-screened systems. I also want the user who likes to keep JavaScript disabled to be able to view the site. Achieving these goals has not been easy! The new site relies heavily on CSS and HTML 5 for as much of the design and functionality as possible. The pages where JavaScript are required are clearly marked as such.

My biggest problem was in creating a menuing system that works on all platforms. The current system you see now uses CSS and works okay. But with more pages coming, the menu needed updating. A simple drop-down where the user hovers over an item and a sub-menu appears seemed like a good choice but such a menuing system will have problems on a touch-screen. Yesterday, while at the writer's group, a fellow author showed me her website. She uses the now standard three bar menu icon to take the user to a central navigation hub. This is a more elegant solution and is the one I will be adopting.

I've seen such a menu before but never really thought about it until now. It's also far easier to maintain than an old-style menu with categories listed at the top or the side of a site. When a change is made, I will no longer have to update every single page to show the new menu. This is a much better design.

I wanted to bring up a concern about taxes that I noted on Twitter the other day. Two of my author acquaintances have books that have done well last year. One was complaining she was not prepared for the amount of money she needed to send to the IRS while the other said that his accountant had been pretty much useless. I've written several times in the past about taxes for authors. A writer must treat their writing like a business. This involves more than just claiming that your writing is a business. You must be able to show the IRS that you are treating your writing as a business by documentation, separate bank accounts, etc.

One of the other aspects of owning a business is to understand how the finances work. Please don't rely totally on an accountant for this. Take the time to read the IRS publications. Believe it or not, they're not that difficult to read. When tax time comes, the IRS will hold you responsible for the accuracy of the forms you submit--not your accountant. I do my own taxes and I periodically read the IRS publications to keep abreast of the changes in tax law. Sure it takes time. But it's better than finding out that you or your accountant missed something important and now you owe more taxes than you can afford to pay.

There are many resources out there if you care to take the time to do the research. Taxes can be tricky. But after reading the IRS publications, reading a book on taxes for small businesses, and taking the time to get your writing business in order can make tax time less challenging. Planning ahead for the tax you will need to pay is also a must. The IRS will want their fair share of your writing income. Make sure you have it available when the time comes.