Misplaced Hopes and Realized Dreams: What the Renewal Conference has Meant to Me

by Sonja Anderson

NCWA Anderson SonjaThe first writing conference I ever went to was a Renewal Conference for the NCWA, back in the day when it was held at Seattle Pacific University. I had applied for, and received, a scholarship, which was the only way I felt comfortable about attending—I felt like too much a pretender to tell my husband I was going to spend money on a writing conference, of all things.

I had a draft of a novel, a bundle of nerves, and a lot of misplaced hope. Misplaced, because I thought the novel was ready, and because I thought that this was my one chance to get it published. Both were decidedly untrue.

Most people do come to a conference hoping for a connection that leads to a contract. My experience, after many conferences, both at NCWA and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and most recently at Connecting Writers with Hollywood, is that sometimes—sometimes—that dream is realized, and a lot of other good stuff can happen even when the dream of a contract isn’t realized.

My first children’s novel, Sophie’s Quest, was published without the benefit of meeting someone at a conference, but maybe going to conferences helped anyway. I was reminded, at the Renewal conference, of the Christian Writers Market Guide. I purchased a copy from the book table, contacted all of the relevant publishers, and ultimately got a “yes” from a publisher in England!

When Keys for Kids editor, Courtney Lasseter, led a workshop on writing devotionals for children at a conference a few years ago, I stopped by her room where she was giving appointments. When someone didn’t show up for their appointment, I was able to talk to her for a few minutes. I didn’t have a story, but I liked her, and we had a fun chat about what she was looking for. After a rejected attempt, this relationship has led to six published—and paid—stories for the magazine, and now she writes to me when she needs a new story.

Best of all, God used the 2019 Renewal conference to introduce me to a new publisher for Sophie’s Quest and the entire Adventures of Sophie Topfeather series, the same month my British publisher quit the business and gave me my rights back. What a blessing!

Looking back, my hopes at that first conference weren’t exactly misplaced. The conference was the right place to be. I had to bring my work up to industry standard and to stay in the game long enough for God to bring the right information, the right people, and the right opportunities to me, each at the right time. The Renewal Conference has been a faithful companion on the journey, helping me all along the way.

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Keys for Kids Elephant Cover (1)Anderson, SonjaSonja Anderson writes children’s literature from Burien, WA and lives with her husband and two daughters. She works full time in a local elementary school library where she feels like a spy, learning about all the newly-published books and seeing what books kids love.

Find out more at www.sonjaandersonbooks.com.

 

Back on Track

TrainAs I write this post, I can hear a train whistle echoing in the distance and it seems an appropriate analogy of the resurgence of the Northwest Christian Writers Association Blog.  After lying dormant for a time, it’s getting back on track and making its presence known.

I’m honored to be the new coordinator for the blog and I’m excited to be part of this important resource.

The main goal for the blog is to be a go-to source for the writing world at large and extend the NWCA’s reputation for excellence.

It will be a place to find extended information on events, meetings, and learn more about NCWA members.  It will also contain articles about various writing journeys, tools we can all use to improve our writing, tips on getting our stories published from all the sides involved, and other topics related to our writing.

Where will this information and encouragement come from?   From authors, editors, publishers, and others in the writing profession who have knowledge and experience in their fields and lives.   This includes members of the Northwest Christian Writers Association.  Not only do we want to provide resources for our members in their writing journey, but we also want members to be a resource for others.  You need to do what you do best —  write.  Write about the tools you find most helpful, write about what you do to overcome writer’s block, write about what you’ve learned in your journey of publishing your work, write a review of a great workshop or conference you’ve attended.  There’s so much knowledge you have that can help others, so dig deep and write. The NCWA blog needs you to add your unique voice.

If you want to write, but can’t think of a good topic, I can provide you with a few from which to choose.  How about a bio of another NCWA member or reviewing an on-line video?  There are plenty of ideas.

Why should you personally consider being a guest writer?  There are benefits for you personally, here are just three:

  1. Publication
    Getting your work to the reading public and adding to your writing portfolio is always a good thing.
  2. Name Recognition
    Build your expertise, reputation, and your brand even before you publish your current work in progress.
  3. Get your own website more visitors
    If you have your own website and/or blog, writing for another blog can drive more visitors to your site.

There are certainly more benefits.  I’d love for you to share in the comments section other ones you think are important.

Even if you choose not to write any guest blog posts, you can still partner with us.  You can read the blog on a regular basis, make comments, and reshare posts on your social media.  It helps reach more readers and more contributors.

Drawing on the train analogy once more,  I’m asking you to add your experience and expertise to the long line of cars that are lining up and pulling out of the station towards our destination.

Ready to get started?  Click here for submission guidelines

Have a question?  Feel free to ask them in the comments section.

Want to be assigned a topic?  Send an e-mail with your request to:   blog@nwchristianwriters.org

WELCOME ABOARD! I look forward to working with you and sharing your story.

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Pamburnbrightprofileela J. Dickey is the Coordinator for the Northwest Christian Writers Association Blog.  She is a speaker, writer, personal consultant, and training facilitator. Founder of Burn Bright Coaching, she draws on her background as a personal and career development coach, certified corporate trainer, and ordained minister to equip her clients and audiences to discover and pursue their life’s purpose — personal, professional, and spiritual — to help them Burn Bright.

 

6 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid at a Writers Conference

by guest blogger Katelyn S. Bolds, web writer and social media strategist

1.  Bring snacks

Don’t make the mistake of not planning for meals. Have a little snack stashed in your attaché for a slow moment. Don’t let your stomach growl when pitching your book! Bring a granola bar or trail mix as a speedy way to subdue your hunger. Choosing protein and low-sugar options will help keep your energy levels up and prevent you from crashing in the mid-afternoon slump.6-rookie-mistakes

2.  Make goals

Attending a conference with no goals in mind is a complete waste of money. Even if your goal is “find out what my goal should be,” you should still have some in mind.

Make a list of the editors and agents you want to meet with or touch base with. Do your homework and research them online. Try to find out interests, and see if your story would fit well for them. If an agent only works with fiction, don’t try to get them to make an exception for your manuscript.

3.  Avoid burnout

Know what is the right amount of conference for you. When you start to feel overwhelmed, leave the conference. Go outside, take a nap, call your family. Skipping meals or sleep will not impress anyone, but rather give the impression that you are inexperienced and unprofessional. Everyone needs a break after a long conference, but rest assured you can recover.

Read more here about avoiding conference burnout.

4.  Network and connect

Don’t underestimate the power of connections and friendships made at conferences! Use your time between sessions to speak with those around you. Swap struggles and tips with other writers and make sure to get names and e-mails if you feel the connection has potential. Writer friends are important for support, idea generation, and later networking opportunities. Be kind and see where it might lead!

5.  Pitch perfectly

Know your story backwards and forwards. It’s hard to sell a story short and sweet, but shoot for the style of a back cover. Focus on the main plot and emotional draw. In three to five sentences, explain the mass appeal of your work and why the publisher should be interested. Be polite, but don’t waste time chatting about the weather or the conference. The agent or editor is there to hear your pitch.

6.  Follow up and follow through!

Follow up with everyone you spoke with for more than a few minutes. Send them a thank you e-mail referencing interesting conversation points you discussed and tell them it was nice to meet them. This little touch will remind them who you are and set you apart from the crowd.

Follow through with anyone who asked you to send them something. If an editor asks you to tweak your story before sending them your manuscript, don’t let pride or lack of time stand in your way. Send it to them with haste! You may find that they are willing to work with you in the future, knowing how dedicated you are to impressing them.

Now that you know the rookie mistakes to avoid at writers conferences, be sure to sign up for the 2017 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal!

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katelynsbolds_headshotKatelyn S. Bolds balances work as web editor, author services extraordinaire, and freelance writer. She is married to coffee; also her husband. At times this DIY life might get a little crazy, but she takes it one day at a time. A little yoga, a lot of organization, and a holistic approach make for a Bold Life. Follow her on Twitter, (@KatelynSBolds), Facebook, and Pinterest.

 

Conference Sponsor Assists Writers Who Avoid Financial Planning

By Debbie Austin, Northwest Christian Writers Renewal Vendor Coordinator

I have to admit. I know very little about financial planning. And frankly, thinking about beginning the whole process makes me want to do anything—anything—else. When choosing between getting my physical house and my financial house in order, even cleaning the toilet takes on a certain allure. I’d much rather write a children’s picture book than write a plan for making sure I can eat in retirement.

WenLiangLuckily for me (and maybe a few of you?), one of our vendor sponsors at the upcoming Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference, is Wen-Liang Huang. Wen has been a financial advisor at Waddell & Reed in Bellevue for more than two years and in the industry for over five years. He describes his job as “providing investment and financial planning services that put your financial needs, goals and objectives first.” It turns out that financial planning is not one-size-fits-all. Wen says, “My goal is to develop a financial plan tailored specifically to your needs.”

Having experienced a recent, drastic change in my financial situation, I felt overwhelmed at first. But following Wen’s step-by-step suggestions proved to be helpful. The key is to start with the basics. Using the tools Wen provides to track fixed expenses, discretionary expenses, and income—while planning for emergency needs and managing debt—I’m figuring out my current financial picture. After that I can think about planning for retirement.

Others may be more interested in achieving specific financial goals, such as educational expenses or transferring wealth to loved ones in the future. It reassures me to know that Wen has had extensive training. (Just take a look at all the letters after his name!) One of these prestigious designations, Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®), is described as “the highest standard of knowledge and trust in financial planning.”

When you visit our vendor booths this year, consider talking more with Wen about the financial advising services he provides, and while you’re there, sign up to win a $25 Starbucks gift card.

In addition to learning about their services, another reason to visit all of our vendors at the conference is the chance to win a prize in our fun Vendor Scavenger Hunt drawing. If you haven’t registered yet for the Renewal, sign up today!

Help with Quoting Scripture in Your Writing—and More

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

Christian writers often quote the Bible in their manuscripts, but many are unaware of the proper way to handle such quotations.

“As you research or write, keep track of which versions of Scripture you quote,” recommends Redemption Press senior editor Inger Logelin. “That way, you—or the editor—won’t have to do a ‘treasure hunt’ at the end of the project to identify each one.”RedemptionPress

Redemption Press, one of this year’s sponsors at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, is offering free Quick Looks appointments on both days of the event. The offer is for authors who are considering using the publisher’s services.

During each 15-minute appointment, Inger Logelin will examine the author’s manuscript and offer brief overview comments and editing suggestions, such as these three additional guidelines for handling Scripture in written materials:

  • Note each Scripture version used on the copyright page.
  • If you use one version throughout your article or book, it is not necessary to add the version in the text. But if you use more than one version, note the version abbreviation in the reference. For example: “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness” (Psalm 86:11 NIV).
  • Set lengthier sections of Scripture in block quotations, which do not normally begin or end with quotation marks.

By signing up for an appointment at the Redemption Press booth, you can have your questions answered before turning in your manuscript. Discover potential editing issues, learn what constitutes “fair use” of quoted material, find out what formatting mistakes not to make, and avoid reoccurring grammar or spelling errors. Conferees can also enter a drawing for two free mentoring sessions that will be given away at the conference.

The Quick Looks opportunity made available by Redemption Press is just one of the exciting features you’ll discover at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal on May 13 and 14. If you haven’t already registered to attend, don’t wait. Sign up now!

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and coauthor of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Writing Business: Simplified Home Office Deduction Option by Gary Hensley

On the first Monday of each month, Gary offers advice regarding the business side of writing.

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Photo: Gary Hensley spoke to members of the American Christian Fiction Writer Association–Indiana State Chapter in Ft. Wayne, IN on May 4, 2013.

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Beginning in tax year 2013 (returns filed in 2014), you may use a simplified option when figuring the deduction for business use of your home.

Highlights of the Simplified Option

  1. Standard deduction of $5 per square foot of home used for business (maximum 300 square feet).
  2. Allowable home-related itemized deductions claimed in full on Schedule A (such as mortgage interest and real estate taxes).
  3. No home depreciation deduction or later recapture of depreciation for the years the simplified option is used.

The simplified option does not change the criteria for who may claim a home office deduction.  It merely simplifies the calculation and recordkeeping requirements of the allowable deduction.

You may choose to use the simplified method or the regular method for any taxable year.  Once you have chosen a method for a taxable year, you cannot later change to the other method for that same year.

For a comparison of the regular method and the simplified method, you may refer to this IRS document and also to IRS Revenue Procedure 2013-13.

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Gary A. Hensley is a 35-year veteran in accounting, auditing, and federal taxation including employment as a Revenue Agent with the IRS (2005-2011). He has been a workshop instructor on the business side of writing. Publications include: Writer’s Digest, Christian Communicator, and Writers Journal. Gary writes at: www.taxsolutionsforwriters.com.

Writing Business: “The IRS Meal Allowance; Part of your Tax-Reducing Arsenal” by Gary Hensley / **Giveaway Ticket Winner!

On the first Monday of each month, Gary offers advice regarding the business side of writing.

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Gary Hensley picOne of the most valuable tax-busting deductions seems to be hiding under the mushroom of business inexperience.  When I review this deduction at a writers’ workshop, ranging from novice to established writers, authors and illustrators, I find that only 2 or 3 have some awareness of this tax break.

I am talking about maximizing the IRS Meal Allowance.   The meal allowance becomes available when you incur meal costs while away from home (essentially, travel requiring overnight lodging) on business trips. If you eat sparingly, or only one basic meal a day, or are a perpetual ”snacker” during the day, you will like the idea of not having to keep records of meal costs coupled with the higher, no-questions-asked, meal allowance.

In the IRS tables, the allowance is referred to as the “M&IE” rate (meals and incidental expenses).  In addition to meals and tips for food servers, the allowance (M&IE rate) includes a limited number of “incidental” expenses such as fees and tips for porters, baggage carriers, hotel maids, or room stewards.  Self-employed individuals may claim the M&IE allowance. 

Meal Allowance on 2012 tax returns

For travel within the continental U.S., the standard meal allowance (M&IE) for 2012 is generally $46 per day; however, [flashing lights] higher rates apply in major cities and other high-cost locations (such as resort areas) designated by the government.  For example, in 2012, the M&IE rate for both Dallas, TX and San Francisco, CA is $71 per day (rate research guidance will be provided below).   The basic and high-cost-area meal rates are determined by the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA) and the IRS allows taxpayers to use the applicable rates in figuring their meal allowance deduction.

You must keep a record (required anyway for all away-from-home business travel) of the time, place, and business purpose of the trips.  As long as you have this proof, [flashing lights] you may claim the allowance even if your actual costs are less than the allowance!  EXAMPLE:  suppose you were in Dallas on business for five full business days (excluding the arrival and departure days, discussed below) and you averaged spending only $35 per day for food, beverages and tips (totaling $175).  Your allowed deduction for those five full business days in Dallas would be $355 (5 X $71)!   In this example, you double your tax deduction by simply doing your meal allowance research and documenting the amounts in your travel journal.  If you frequently travel overnight on business, this approach, consistently applied throughout the year, will lower your tax due or increase your refund.

One quick note:  the meal allowance is prorated for the first and last day of a trip.  You may claim only 75% of the allowance for the days you depart and return.

Click here to read more from Gary’s website.

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Gary A. Hensley is a 35-year veteran in accounting, auditing, and federal taxation including employment as a Revenue Agent with the IRS (2005-2011). He has been a workshop instructor on the business side of writing. Publications include: Writer’s Digest, Christian Communicator, and Writers Journal. Gary writes at: www.taxsolutionsforwriters.com.

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**Denise Hisey is the winner of  our Giveaway ticket event!

Dessert at “An Evening with Jane Kirkpatrick.”  Kirkpatrick will speak on “Finding Home.” The event includes gourmet dessert and book signing. Friday, May 17 at 7-8 p.m. Part of the conference but available separately for $10 at the door. For more information: www.nwchristianwriters.org

Writing Business: Retirement Savings Equals Tax Savings Using SEP by Gary Hensley

On the first Monday of each month, Gary offers advice regarding the business side of writing.

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Gary Hensley picA Plan for Sole Proprietors to Reduce Income Tax

So, you have had a great year in the publishing world and even after maxing out your operating expenses, you are still showing a tidy profit.  What to do?  Consider reducing that profit further by funding your personal retirement account and taking a tax deduction for it.

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP)

SEPs provide a simplified method for you to make contributions to a retirement plan for yourself and your employees (if any).  Instead of setting up a profit-sharing or money purchase plan with a trust, you can adopt a SEP agreement and make contributions directly to a traditional individual retirement account or a traditional individual retirement annuity (SEP-IRA) set up for yourself and each eligible employee (if any).

More good news!  Suppose 2012 is a very profitable year, even after taking all available deductions.  You can actually set up the SEP plan after your tax year closes (in this case, calendar 2012) and fund it until the due date of your return (including extensions).   For calendar 2012 sole proprietors, the normal due date of your return would be April 15, 2013 but with an automatic 6-month extension (using Form 4868), you would have until October 15, 2013 to set up the SEP and fund it for 2012. This is one of the few opportunities to lower your tax bill after your tax year (in this case, 2012) has ended and still get the deduction on that year’s return (2012).

With an extension filed (only if you cannot create the SEP plan and fund it by the normal due date), you would have a total of 9 1/2 months after December 31, 2012 to create and fund the plan.  That’s a lot of flexibility!  Caution: Even after you take the SEP deduction on your return, if you still owe a balance due (based on other income such as wages, interest, dividends, etc.), that amount would need to be paid with the initial return or paid with the extension request to avoid late payment penalties and interest.  The extension only allows you an extra six months to set up the SEP plan and fund it.

A sole proprietor is treated as his or her own employer for retirement plan purposes.   For a self-employed person, compensation means ”earned income.”    Earned income is net earnings from self-employment from a business in which your services materially helped to produce the income.  Net earnings from self-employment is your gross income from your trade or business minus allowable business deductions (including the deductible portion of your self-employment tax, shown on page 1, line 27 of your Form 1040).

Other Interesting Points:

  • A SEP-IRA cannot be a Roth IRA.
  • Employer contributions to a SEP-IRA will not affect the amount an individual can contribute to a Roth or traditional IRA.
  • Unlike regular contributions to a traditional IRA, contributions under a SEP can be made to participants over age 70 1/2.  If you are self-employed, you can also make contributions for yourself even if you are over 70 1/2.

Contribution Limits

For 2012, contributions cannot exceed the lesser of 25% of the employee’s compensation or $50,000.  Special rules apply when figuring the maximum deductible contribution for the “owner-employee.”  Let me illustrate with an example.

EXAMPLE:  You are a sole proprietor with no employees.  The terms of your plan provide that you contribute 25% (.25) of your compensation to your plan.  Your net profit from line 31, Schedule C is $40,000.  Your deductible self-employment tax (taken on page 1, line 27 of Form 1040) is $2,825.  Subtract this amount from the $40,000 to get net earnings from self-employment of $37,175.  Next, you multiply this amount by 20% (yes, 20%, not 25%, see Footnote below) to get $7,435.  This is your maximum deductible contribution.  You would enter this amount on Form 1040, page 1, line 28 as an adjustment (reduction) to your income.   Although this adjustment goes on page 1 of the Form 1040, it does reduce the Schedule C profit of $40,000 which also gets reported on page 1 of Form 1040.   Notice that the deductible portion of your self-employment tax ($2,825) and the SEP contribution ($7,435) have reduced your $40,000 Schedule C profit down to $29,740.  This amount gets further reduced by your personal and dependency exemptions and your standard or itemized deductions before you actually reach taxable income, the amount used to determine your income tax due. You will still be required to pay self-employment taxes on the $40,000 on Schedule SE (approximately $4,913 for 2012). [See my earlier post on “Writers and the Self-Employment Tax“].

I know, for many of you in the early stages of your career, that any profit is a solid achievement.  However, this is a worthwhile strategy for all to consider once profitability is attained.   As a self-employed person, it is up to you to put funds away for your future.  This is a great way to do it while lowering your current income tax bill.  The sooner you start, the longer your retirement funds will have to compound.

Your bank, credit union or broker will be happy (eager) to help you set up your SEP-IRA plan with forms that comply with the IRS requirements.  You will complete the paperwork (a few pages) and open your SEP-IRA at that institution and be on your way!

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Helpful Resource:  Pages 22, 23 and 24 of IRS Publication 560 illustrate the deduction worksheet for those self-employed and also include a rate table conversion chart for the self-employed.

Footnote:  In order to arrive at a 25% contribution in the above example after the contribution is allowed as a deduction against your profit, it is necessary to do the following:  take the contribution percentage you want to use, such as 25% or .25, and divide it by 1.25, which then gives you the 20% figure to multiply the profit by before any SEP deduction.  In the above example, if you take the net earnings from self-employment, $37,175 and subtract the contribution of $7,435, you get $29,740.  Now, when you take that contribution of $7,435 and divide it by $29,740, you get 25%.  Therefore, you actually took a 25% contribution of your business profit after subtracting or allowing for the contribution.  As a self-employed person, this is your unique formula to arrive at the maximum deduction allowed.

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Gary A. Hensley is a 35-year veteran in accounting, auditing, and federal taxation including employment as a Revenue Agent with the IRS (2005-2011). He has been a workshop instructor on the business side of writing. Publications include: Writer’s Digest, Christian Communicator, and Writers Journal. Gary writes at: www.taxsolutionsforwriters.com.

Writing Business: Maximize Travel Deductions By Gary A. Hensley

On the first Monday of each month, Gary offers advice regarding the business side of writing.

Today’s post links to Gary’s recent guest post with Jerry Jenkins.

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Gary Hensley picMost writers pay too much tax on their writing income because they fail to deduct business travel expenses.

For 2012, for every business mile you drive for your work as a writer, the standard allowance is 55.5 cents per mile. (It doesn’t matter what the trip actually costs.)

Click here to read more of Gary’s guest post with Jerry Jenkins at Christian Writers Guild.

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Gary A. Hensley is a 35-year veteran in accounting, auditing, and federal taxation including employment as a Revenue Agent with the IRS (2005-2011). He has been a workshop instructor on the business side of writing. Publications include: Writer’s Digest, Christian Communicator, and Writers Journal. Gary writes at: www.taxsolutionsforwriters.com.

Writing Business: Self-Employed Professionals and Foreign Income – Part 1

On the first Monday of each month, Gary offers advice regarding the business side of writing.

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Reporting Foreign Income Required

Gary Hensley picIf you are a United States citizen with income from sources outside the United States (foreign income), you must report all such income on your tax return unless it is exempt by United States law. This is true whether you reside inside or outside the United States and whether or not you receive a Form W-2 (if an employee) or Form 1099 (self-employed) from the foreign payer. This applies to earned income (such as wages, commissions, professional fees and author royalties) and unearned income (such as interest, dividends, capital gains, pensions and rents).

The United States taxes the worldwide income of U.S. citizens, resident aliens and domestic corporations, without regard to whether the income arose from a transaction or activity originating outside its geographic borders.

Qualifying for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

If you are a U.S. citizen or a resident alien of the United States and you live abroad, you may qualify to exclude from income up to $92,900 (2011 amount) of your foreign earnings. In addition, you can exclude or deduct certain foreign housing amounts.

Requirements:

To claim the foreign earned income exclusion, you must meet all three of the following requirements:

  1. Your “tax home” must be in a foreign country.  More about your tax home below.
  2. You must have foreign earned income.
  3. You must be one of the following:
  • A U.S. citizen who is a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year.
  • A U.S. resident alien who is a citizen or national of a country with which the United States has an income tax treaty in effect and who is a bona fide resident of a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period that includes an entire tax year.
  • A U.S. citizen or a U.S. resident alien who is “physically present” in a foreign country or countries for at least 330 full days during any period of 12 consecutive months.

“Tax Home” in a Foreign Country

To qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion, your tax home must be in a foreign country throughout your period of bona fide residence or physical presence abroad (terms explained below). Your tax home is the general area of your main place of business or employment regardless of where you maintain your family home. Your tax home is the place where you are permanently or indefinitely engaged to work as an employee or self-employed individual (which could be the office in your home).

You are not considered to have a tax home in a foreign country for any period in which your abode (“abode” has been variously defined as one’s home, habitation, residence, domicile, or place of dwelling) is in the United States. However, your abode is not necessarily in the United States while you are temporarily in the United States. Your abode is also not necessarily in the United States merely because you maintain a dwelling in the United States, whether or not your spouse or dependents use the dwelling.

What is a “Foreign Country?”

A foreign country includes any territory under the sovereignty of a government other than that of the United States.  Residence or presence in a U.S. possession (American Samoa, Guam, Mariana Islands) does not qualify you for the foreign earned income exclusion. You may, however, qualify for an exclusion of your possession income on your U.S. return.  Residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot claim the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign housing exclusion.

On March 4th, we will review the bona fide residence and physical presence tests (you must meet one) in Part 2 of this subject.

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Gary A. Hensley is a 35-year veteran in accounting, auditing, and federal taxation including employment as a Revenue Agent with the IRS (2005-2011). He has been a workshop instructor on the business side of writing. Publications include: Writer’s Digest, Christian Communicator, and Writers Journal. Gary writes at: www.taxsolutionsforwriters.com.