Contemplating :[ After I had prepared my taxes. It may be time for me to do less of mystery shopping,

It may be time for me to do less of mystery shopping. After driving to and from route of shops. I figured that I may not be fully making all that money. Gas and time, and reports afterwards. This actually started as a stepping stone, until I found a J.O.B. lol. It lasted longer than I thought.

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Certainly a J.O.B. has benefits that MS does not have. Many/most employers offer some sort of benefits package which may include health insurance, perhaps a retirement plan, sick days and vacation days. A person with the diversified set of skills necessary to be a successful shopper should be attractive to most employers. A steady paycheck is of course a plus of a J.O.B. And if your employment work schedule is predictable, there is no reason that shops can't be worked in around it. Mystery shopping as the sole source of income for keeping a roof over your head and the lights on is tough. Many of the benefits come in the form of reimbursements, in the form of sheltering income from taxation via the mileage deduction and in keeping technology current as a business expense rather than as an out of pocket expense. So yes, my tax return legitimately shows that my 'net income' from shopping is small, but my gross and benefits are substantial and certainly worth the time invested.
@Flash wrote:

Certainly a J.O.B. has benefits that MS does not have. Many/most employers offer some sort of benefits package which may include health insurance, perhaps a retirement plan, sick days and vacation days. A person with the diversified set of skills necessary to be a successful shopper should be attractive to most employers. A steady paycheck is of course a plus of a J.O.B. And if your employment work schedule is predictable, there is no reason that shops can't be worked in around it. Mystery shopping as the sole source of income for keeping a roof over your head and the lights on is tough. Many of the benefits come in the form of reimbursements, in the form of sheltering income from taxation via the mileage deduction and in keeping technology current as a business expense rather than as an out of pocket expense. So yes, my tax return legitimately shows that my 'net income' from shopping is small, but my gross and benefits are substantial and certainly worth the time invested.

@Flash

Thanks so much. Yes, MS income just did not look good on paper, as the Net Income was calculated. Thank you so much for your well thought out response. You expressed exactly what I was trying to relay and sort out for myself.
That was a flash feedback.smiling smiley

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/29/2016 05:14PM by ingridjes.
Your income "on paper" will be different depending on how you depend on, utilize and maximize what you're getting out of your mystery shopping assignments.

For example, I may be putting in some work for food, but every month, I typically spend no more than $50 for food and drinks per month. I utilize simple gas station shops to subsidize fuel for my vehicle between routes. The points I receive from hotel shops and frequent buyer cards from restaurants are collected over time. I do lots of DIY maintenance on my car, which goes against the IRS mileage rate, etc.

In other words, don't let the IRS tell you you're in a losing business if you've done your homework to work with what you have and reap from its benefits. There are lots of intangibles that our taxes DON'T clearly depict.

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 31 year old male and willing to travel!


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/29/2016 05:38PM by Tarantado.
Part of the reason I include both reimbursements and fees in my 'gross income' on my Schedule C and then deduct out the reimbursements is so that I can clearly see the benefit to me of mystery shopping. The 'net income' is talking about only that which is eventually taxable.

As a further thought, if I were not mystery shopping I would still need to: A) have a vehicle for transportation, cool smiley pay licensing and insurance on that vehicle, C) do routine maintenance on that vehicle, D) do repairs on the vehicle, and E) put gas in that vehicle. Items C), D) and E) may come faster with mystery shopping, but C) and E) can frequently be covered at least in part by shops. If I systematically do my routine maintenance, then repairs are less likely to be needed. Having IRS mileage deduction shelter income at a substantially higher rate than my actual costs is just one more plus.
@Flash wrote:

Many of the benefits come in the form of reimbursements, in the form of sheltering income from taxation via the mileage deduction.
^^This^^ It's why I'll take jobs in rural Timbuktu. The mileage is enough to write off the bonus money and cover some of the income I'm making elsewhere.

Now scheduling travel shops for the day after Christmas through mid-January.
@ingridjes wrote:

Salamat @Tarantado

Walang anuman, pare / mare.

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 31 year old male and willing to travel!
@ingridjes wrote:

@ mare ako lol

Haha good to know! Didn't want to assume smiling smiley I'll remember that from now on, mare!

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 31 year old male and willing to travel!
I'm with you!!! I had a good year, some nice meals and many, many hours of filling out tedious, repetitive reports. I did my taxes yesterday....WOW do we get hammered under the self employed laws. For me it is time to go back to cooking great meals at home and suffer through doing the dishes.

New shoppers BEWARE. If you get a 1099 you will not be happy with how much you owe.
They want a slice of everything. Need to pay whether you get a 1099 or not. You need to pay if you earn Swagbucks. You need to pay if you barter on a regular basis. You need to pay for that $100 football pool you won. Make certain you keep mileage records. It's the only way to not pay through the nose.

Now scheduling travel shops for the day after Christmas through mid-January.
The IRS mileage deduction wipes out most of my ms income. OTOH, I was going to drive around anyway, going to have car expenses even if I didn't ms. Since the reimbursements aren't taxable, it's easy to ignore them, but they have value and do add up. So far, it's still worth it to me, both financially and as something interesting to do.
@ingridjes wrote:

It may be time for me to do less of mystery shopping. After driving to and from route of shops. I figured that I may not be fully making all that money. Gas and time, and reports afterwards. This actually started as a stepping stone, until I found a J.O.B. lol. It lasted longer than I thought.
You forgot wear and tear on your car for driving to your shops, as opposed to sitting inside an office all day. smiling smiley
I don't think that is true in many cases. The 1099 simply reflects the income. It does not include the eventual write offs that will reduce that income far below what you would be able to if it were a standard w-2 wage. If you keep careful records, that 1099 may in many cases be reduced to nearly zero.
I do this full time and have many 1099's. I of course have so many write offs for mileage and hotel stays and equipment and office supplies. I don't remember the last time I owed taxes. Do I make money off this yes it just is a lot of it is reduced expenses covered through reimbursemnets.

Shopping Western NY, Northeast and Central PA, and parts of Ohio and West Virginia. Have car will travel anywhere if the monies right.
agreed, wear and tear on my car was one of my concern. In comparison to a distant to work and back daily
My CPA told me I was working for nothing mystery shopping, tax wise. He did not let me take all the mileage I put on my car, saying it would make ms-ing look like a hobby.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/04/2016 12:08AM by Connecticut Annie.
@Connecticut Annie wrote:

My CPA told me I was working for nothing mystery shopping, tax wise. He did not let me take all the mileage I put on my car, saying it would make ms-ing look like a hobby.

I don't understand. Are you saying that your mileage was so high that it more than wiped out your MS income so that you made no profit, so your CPA told you not to claim it all because if the business is a real business you must show a profit?

The IRS presumes that an activity is carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year. If an activity is not for profit, losses from that activity may not be used to offset other income. An activity produces a loss when related expenses exceed income. If expenses exceed income every year, then you have a hobby, not a business.
I nearly earn zero many years but that is because I do a lot of reimbursement shops so the fees are generally low. I have not taken my full mileage some years just so I can show a bit of a profit. This year was my highest year for actual taxable earnings doing mystery shopping. Most of the high end restaurants I shopped are gone and I have not had time to sign up with additional companies. Those had small or no fee attached to them and I started doing more parking garages which is pure fee.
Undue consideration to wear and tear on a car while mystery shopping seems like overkill to me. That's similar to saying I can't hold down a nine to five job because I'll wear out my car driving back and forth.

Other than tires, I don't see much additional expense mystery shopping. I've never had a job across the street. Never.

Mary Davis Nowell. Based close to Fort Worth. Shopping Interstate 20 east and west, Interstate 35 north and south.
@MDavisnowell wrote:


Other than tires, I don't see much additional expense mystery shopping. I've never had a job across the street. Never.

I find myself rather suspecting that mystery shopping may be GOOD for my vehicle. Our household has a 17 year old truck and an 8 1/2 year old hybrid sedan. Both were bought new, the truck was used for most shops until 2-3 years ago. With shop oil changes every 3 months rather than by mileage the truck engine just hums along. Maintenance gets done (belts, hoses, fluid flushes, brake pads), there have been almost no repairs and what has been needed has not been major.

When a vehicle is out for shops it generally is not in rush hour traffic crawling along with lots of stops and starts. It also doesn't get driven for 20 minutes and then left in a parking lot to cool down for the day before driving stop and start through rush hour traffic to get home to cool down again. Instead it gets driven at reasonably steady speeds, parked for 20 to 30 minutes and then restarted while it is still warm to go to the next shop, etc.
As far as transportation is concerned in mystery shopping, it's the least of my worries. I just deduct the monthly TTC metro pass. I very seldom use a car except in upscale shops where the parking is usually reimbursed.
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