Ask fellow freelancers and self-employed colleagues in your life how they track business expenses, and you’re likely to hear answers like, “A spreadsheet I never remember to update,” or “A pile of overflowing manila folders,” or “A rat’s nest of receipts in a shoebox.”
Perhaps you’re familiar with these record-keeping “systems” yourself.
Fortunately, there’s a better way to track tax write-offs for your business: Keeper Tax, an easy-to-use digital bookkeeping tool for people with 1099 income, including small-business owners who work with independent contractors.
The Keeper Tax app connects to your business bank accounts and credit cards, automatically tracks and categorizes expenses, and can even prepare and file your tax return using its own tax software, which is significantly cheaper than most competitors.
As such, for many freelancers and small-business owners, Keeper Tax is the stress-free tax solution they’ve been looking for. But is it right for you?
Keeper Tax is a user-friendly Android or iOS app with two core features: a hands-off business-expense tracking suite and an optional tax preparation solution that can help you lock in your write-offs.
Keeper Tax also has an extensive library of free resources for freelancers, independent contractors, and small-business owners — accessible to paying subscribers and nonsubscribers alike.
Business-Expense Tracking & Exporting
Keeper Tax is a powerful yet remarkably hands-off business-expense tracking suite that automatically records and categorizes potential tax write-offs as you go about your work.
To get started, securely link your business credit cards and financial accounts to your Keeper Tax account. Keeper Tax uses Plaid.
When you’ve linked your accounts, the software immediately goes to work categorizing probable business expenses, such as vehicle maintenance and cloud-based business software purchases, you can legally (and profitably) write off at tax time.
You can also take pictures of receipts for expenses charged to unlinked accounts or paid in cash.
If Keeper Tax isn’t sure whether a particular expense qualifies as a business write-off, it sends you a text message asking for more information about its purpose. Usually, the answer is a simple yes (as in it was a business expense) or no (as in no such luck).
As Keeper becomes more familiar with your spending patterns and expense profile, you should receive fewer and fewer requests for clarification. But you may still receive periodic text updates or digests about expenses Keeper Tax has collected and categorized.
Following a no-obligation, 14-day free trial period, Keeper Tax’s business-expense tracking service costs $16 per month.
If you need to export your expenses outside Keeper Tax — typically to your tax preparer or business certified public accountant — you must pay a one-time fee of $39 (recurring each year you export).
Optional Tax Preparation & Filing
Keeper Tax offers an optional but very affordable tax preparation and filing service for its subscribers. The cost is a flat $89 per year, regardless of the complexity of your tax situation, and includes both state and federal returns.
You don’t need to subscribe to Keeper Tax for a full tax year to use its prep and filing service when tax time rolls around.
As long as you have your receipts and digitized expenses (if any) or financial account statements handy, you can sign up when you’re ready to file, upload all the records you want Keeper Tax to transform into business write-offs and expenses, and complete the filing process. But it could take some time if you have lots of records or statements to upload.
Keeper Tax’s tax prep software is designed for people with self-employment tax.
But it’s a full-spectrum solution capable of handling situations involving investment income, W-2 income, retirement contributions and income, and income from formally incorporated businesses (such as limited liability corporations).
An in-house tax professional reviews every return filed with Keeper Tax for accuracy, completeness, and audit risk.
Free Resources for Freelancers & Small-Business Owners
Keeper Tax makes a library of potentially valuable resources available to anyone who visits its website, whether they have an active Keeper Tax subscription or not:
- Write-Offs Lists. Keeper Tax maintains semi-custom lists of potential write-offs for 20 or 30 distinct lines of work, from traditional contractor roles like graphic design and real estate sales to app-based side hustles like driving for Uber or charging electric scooters for Lime or Bird. Depending on the line of work, these lists might include expenses for continuing education, work supplies, vehicle maintenance and mileage, legal and other professional services, advertising, and labor.
- Tax and Deduction Calculators. Keeper Tax has interactive deduction and tax calculators for estimating or tallying your quarterly tax payments, total income tax owed, total tax due at tax time (your actual tax bill), and home office deduction expenses.
- Simple Invoice Generator. Keeper Tax’s simple invoice generator is a very basic template with no storage or send functions — you must print and mail or download and email the finished product. But it’s useful for freelancers who don’t want to pay for invoicing software or type invoices by hand.
Keeper Tax is a low-cost, high-performance online tax prep program for professionals new to the independent contracting game. And it has plenty of benefits for those who use it.
- Bookkeeping and Expense Tracking Is Mostly Automated. Keeper Tax is very hands-off. It automatically records and categorizes most expenses from your bank statements with no input needed from you. When Keeper Tax isn’t sure about something, it requests more information by text message. You can respond, usually with a simple yes or no, at your convenience.
- Tax Prep and Filing Is Cheaper Than Most Competitors. Keeper Tax really shows its worth when tax season rolls around. It includes all forms and schedules necessary for people with 1099 income plus additional capabilities for people with complex tax situations. And at $89, its tax software is significantly cheaper than other full-service online tax prep products and virtually all human tax preparers.
- Keeper Tax Can Uncover Potential Write-Offs You Might Have Missed. Keeper Tax is adept at uncovering probable tax write-offs that might otherwise fly under the radar — for example, a casual dinner during which you discussed work or a shopping trip that includes outlays for home office supplies.
- Free Calculators and Tools Available to Everyone. Keeper Tax has a nice library of helpful resources for freelancers and independent contractors: semi-custom write-off lists, tax and deduction calculators, and even a basic invoice generator.
- Tax Professionals Review Every Return. A human tax professional reviews every tax return filed with Keeper Tax for issues that could trigger an IRS tax audit. While that’s not technically full-scale tax audit protection, it’s still valuable peace of mind for people with complex tax situations.
Keeper Tax is only a good deal for certain independent professionals. And that’s not the only potentially disappointing issue.
- The Free Trial Lasts Just 14 Days. Keeper Tax’s 14-day free trial is a bit short, especially considering that many business expenses only recur once per month. So if you start your trial on the 16th and end it on the 30th, Keeper Tax doesn’t collect expenses for the 1st through the 15th. Left only with a partial Keeper Tax experience, you may feel as if you have no choice but to pay for at least one more month of service to really see what it can do.
- Keeper Tax Costs $16 Per Month After the Free Trial Period Ends. Although it’s less expensive than legacy competitors like QuickBooks, Keeper Tax does cost $16 per month after the free trial period ends. Keeper Tax claims to pay for itself many times over through tax savings users would otherwise miss, and that’s probably true for most full-time 1099 workers with lots of business expenses. But the value is less clear for part-timers and people with few tax-deductible expenses.
- You Have to Pay to Export Expenses to a Third-Party Tax Preparer. Keeper Tax charges $39 to export its data. While no doubt meant to encourage subscribers to file their taxes with Keeper Tax, it seems a bit unfair to DIY tax preppers who don’t want to pay for a task they’re comfortable completing on their own.
Keeper Tax clearly has immense time-saving potential for freelancers and independent professionals used to keeping their own business-expense records. It’s basically a bookkeeper in your back pocket that blends sensible automation with hands-on human support when you need it.
If there is a catch, it’s Keeper Tax’s cost: $16 per month for bookkeeping after the free trial period, an $89 one-time fee for optional tax prep and filing, and a $39 one-time for optional expense exporting to a third-party tax preparer.
For independent professionals who work full-time and earn a comfortable income from self-employment, it’s a small price to pay to recover hours upon precious hours at tax time while ensuring no valuable write-offs fall through the cracks during the year.
But it might be steep for part-time freelancers without extensive business expenses, especially those who can’t claim the home office tax deduction.
Before signing up, be sure to run the numbers (perhaps using Keeper Tax’s free tax and deduction calculators) to ensure Keeper Tax will actually pay for itself.