Tax preparation do's and don'ts for independent sellers

Tax Preparation Do’s and Don’ts for Independent Sellers

If you’re a reseller, you know taxes aren’t just a menace that comes around once a year, but a chore that needs to be maintained throughout your selling career.

So, what does reselling tax preparation entail? For some, it’s all part of a day’s work, and they’re prepared to take on the task. But for others – especially newer resellers – it’s a mad scramble to gather reports, receipts, and forms – and then try to figure out what to do with them.

As January 2021 comes to a close, now’s the perfect time to set up your new systems, complete your bookkeeping for the month, and set the pace for the rest of the year. While you should always consult with a tax professional who knows the tax rules and changing regulations, here are a few tips to get you started.

Tax Prep Essentials

We asked Mark Tew, a CPA and the owner ofNot Your Dad’s CPAwho specializes in assisting e-commerce sellers, for his tips on reselling tax preparation.  According to Tew, “a lot of your selling activity will not show up on your bank statement, so unless you have been entering that selling activity into a bookkeeping program like QuickBooks, you’ll have to pull it straight out of your selling platform.” Tew continues to note that having separate bank accounts for personal and business use is a must.

Here’s a rundown of the reports and data-independent sellers need to complete their tax returns.


Summary Reports: Marketplace platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and others provide sellers with access to useful monthly and annual reports. It’s important to retain the following information for reseller tax preparation:

  •  Sales Report Summary
  •   Fee Report Summary
  •   Expense Report Summary

Third-party processors like PayPal also provide access to useful year-end reporting for your selling activity.


Record any expenses you incur for your reselling business by categories – such as office supplies and office equipment. At a minimum, Tew advises keeping your books up-to-date on a monthly basis. At the end of the year, you can run a simple report that provides all your expenses broken down by category.

Mileage: Keeping track of mileage used for business purposes can result in a significant tax deduction. You can either write down each trip in a traditional mileage log or by using a smartphone app that can track your trips automatically. If you did not record your mileage for 2020, Tew recommends that make your best effort to recreate a log for the year, because the deduction can work in your favor.

Example: The 2020 standard mileage rate, was 57.5 per mile. If you drove 2,000 miles for business, you’d have over a $1,000 deduction against your business taxable income.

Note-For 2021, the standard mileage rate has decreased to 56 per mile.

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

“Cost of goods sold is usually your most significant deduction, but it’s also one of the most poorly tracked,” Tew said.

By keeping track of your inventory in a spreadsheet or software program, it should be fairly easy to run a report on your annual cost of goods sold (COGS) and your inventory levels. But if you haven’t been doing that, which is often the case for newer resellers, you have to do your best to estimate your COGS.

Tew says this can be done by using the following formula that involves your beginning inventory, your purchases, and your ending inventory.

COGS Formula

Take the total cost of your beginning inventory at the start of the year, add in all your purchases throughout the year (which you should be able to retrieve from your business bank statements or receipts), and then subtract your ending inventory, and that will tell you your cost of goods sold.

Home Office Deduction Expenses: If you operate your reselling business out of your home,

it’s best to consult with a tax preparer to determine whether the simplified method for home office deduction or the standard method is best for your situation.

The simplified method is based on the square footage of your space, while the standard method considers shared personal and business expenses such as homeowners insurance, utilities, repairs and maintenance, and other expenses.

And here’s a bonus!

If you store inventory in your home, a tax pro can also determine if you can include that space as a home office deduction.

Preparing Your Tax Return

Should resellers prepare their own tax returns? There are a lot of good self-preparation tax programs available, so Tew says it depends on your experience and your comfort level.

“You might be able to do your own taxes, but it’s possible that you can make an error, or that you may not notice something that may save you a lot of money,” he says.

And of course, don’t wait until the last minute! According to the IRS’s website, the 2021 tax filing season begins February 12, with taxes due Thursday, April 15. The earlier you start preparing, the more time you have to ask questions and solve any issues before filing.

Filing business taxes can seem daunting, but with a little preparation, you’ll be ready to file. And at the end of the day, when in doubt, consult a professional. Heck, even famed physicist Albert Einstein said, “the hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”

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