Making more money is nice, whether you do it through getting more mystery shopper jobs or higher-paying assignments. However, it is possible to be more profitable without earning any more money.
How? Well, as a CPA friend of mine says, “It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you keep.” Here are some suggestions to help you keep more of what you make as a secret shopper.
Maximize tax deductions. You can deduct reasonable and necessary expenses incurred in the process of running your business. These may include:
- Computer and Internet expenses;
- Office supplies (including paper, ink, toner, etc.);
- Cell phone service;
- Mileage or automobile expenses;
- Training and education;
- Voice recorders, digital cameras and other technology;
- Batteries and supplies for technology;
- A home office; and
- Other costs.
You may not be able to deduct 100% of these expenses. In general, you may deduct the percentage used in your business. For example, if you use your Internet connection for business 35% of the time, you may deduct 35% of the cost. Document usage to substantiate the deduction.
Keep good records of expenses so you do not miss any deductions. Put a notebook and envelope in your car (the map pocket is a good place). Record mileage and expenses as they are incurred, and drop receipts in the envelope. And do not forget to deduct the cost of the notebook and envelope.
Look for ways to reduce expenses. It is not a smart or profitable move to incur an expense just because it is deductible. For every dollar of expense you incur, you get a tax benefit of about 15 to 50 cents (depending on your tax bracket). If you believe it is a good deal to spend $1 to get 15¢, please see me. I will give you a full 25¢ for every dollar you give me. What a deal!
Reduce expenses by:
- Eliminating unnecessary expenditures. Do you really need a new digital camera or will your current one do?
- Looking for ways to reduce costs and fees. Can you get a better deal on Internet or phone service?
- Grouping trips to save car expenses.
- Seeking cost-effective solutions. Consider the costs of maintenance and supplies when buying equipment. An ink jet printer may cost a little less up front, but the cost of ink may make using it much more costly than a laser printer. For example, when I had to replace my fax machine, I chose a laser instead of an ink jet or thermal fax. It cost a little more to buy the laser fax, but I have saved hundreds of dollars on ink cartridges over the last few years.
Ms. Johnson says
I am considering becoming a mystery shopper, but have a questions regarding taxes on free food and merchandise. Do we have to claim the free products/food as an source of income?
Cathy Stucker says
I am not a tax professional, and you should consult your tax professional for advice about your situation. However, I have posed the question to tax professionals (CPA/Enrolled Agent) and they told me that reimbursements for required purchases are deductible expenses. What most seem to recommend is that you include reimbursements in your gross income, then deduct required purchases as necessary expenses.