Meet Gary Hensley, tax specialist
Q: How did you begin working with MWW on accounting and tax topics and how does your advice at conference refer specifically to writers?
My brother, Dennis Hensley, is a committee member and many years back he suggested to the committee that one or two lectures on the “business side of writing” would add “something different” to this writer’s workshop. Since then, I have made several appearances at MWW offering two or three separate interactive sessions on the best procedures for writers to follow regarding their business accounting and tax preparation. I focus on the critical tax schedules and available tax benefits of working as a self-employed writer.
Q: What are the top mistakes you see writers making with their accounting records and tax return preparation?
The number ONE mistake is not thinking about the “business side” of your writing activities all year long — not in early April when the crush is on to file “last year’s” tax return. The number two mistake is delegating your business affairs to your tax preparer and hoping he or she has specialized knowledge about your profession. Remember: tax preparers only work with what you give them. The writer needs to supply complete and accurate information regarding education costs, travel expenses, business-related equipment purchases, and all other expenses. The professional writer should be able to review the completed return for completeness and accuracy and spot any missing items on the final Schedule C. Finally, document, on a contemporaneous basis, all your expenses.
Q: What tips do you have for people to do that might be helpful in preparation for your MWW sessions?
Write down your business or tax questions and bring them into the sessions. Although I will stay on track and deliver the information needed in each session, I respond to specific attendee questions during and at the end of each session. I can promise that I will NOT be reading dry sections from the Internal Revenue Code. I will be focusing on the critical tax schedules and the rules for maximizing deductions and providing handouts and website references. It really pleases me to see prior attendees return to my sessions with new and “more involved” questions which flow from their growing professional achievements.
Q: Do you have any success stories and/or stories of interest about how the sessions have benefitted writers in past years?
I see the immediate relief of anxiety from attendees in the sessions when they get specific answers to their most perplexing questions. I see them smile when they are shown how to maximize their business deductions. I have received post-workshop emails confirming the value of the sessions at tax-filing time.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
The most popular session deals with your status as a writer: are you a professional in the eyes of the IRS or do you write just as a “hobby”? This session is a “must” for all writers! I would classify it as a “foundation” class. Writers work hard for their income. My goal is to let them keep the lion’s share of that income.
Q: What is your professional background?
I just completed six years as a field Revenue Agent for the IRS (auditing individual and business tax returns). Prior to that, I was an auditor with the Michigan Department of Treasury. I have also worked with local and national CPA firms and Ford Motor Company. I was a classroom instructor in taxation and accounting at a local community college for over seven years rising to the rank of Associate Professor. My articles on this subject have appeared in Christian Communicator, Writers Journal, Writer’s Digest, the Christian Writers Guild blog and other publications. I hold BBA and MBA degrees from Saginaw Valley State University.