Surviving an I.R.S. audit - What Is Included in the Cost of Finished Good besides your best guess?
Surviving an I.R.S. audit - What Is an Acceptable Receipt for a Business Expense?

Surviving an I.R.S. audit - Cost of Goods SOLD and Jail House Orange - A Fashion Accessory Nightmare

Jailhouse ORANGE outift If the I.R.S. asks you to bring your Cost of Goods Sold from two years ago. Are you ready?  An I.R.S. audit causes lots of anxiety. They earn their reputation. My vivid imagination, normally a fantastic creative asset, revved into the red zone as I imagined myself in jailhouse orange - a fashion accessory nightmare.  


Altoids earrings by Harriete Estel Berman
  Altoids Earrings © 2010
  Recycled tin cans, sterling silver wire,
  jump rings, and posts.
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

Double and triple checking my Cost of Goods Sold took hours of work and lots of help to get ready. Sure, I had good Inventory Records, but they were encrypted in "Harriete lingo"  (i.e. no shape to hand over to the I.R.S.).  While I could interpret what and where everything was, auditors prefer to see rows and columns in spreadsheets that clearly add up to the numbers on your tax return. 


Recycled Two Orange Bracelet from post consumer recycled plastic by Harriete Estel Berman
   RECYCLED Two Orange Bracelet
   © 2010 Harriete Estel Berman
   Post-consumer recycled plastic
   Photo Credit: emiko oye

And here is what I learned this year.  Your Finished Goods (discussed in the previous post) becomes the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) only after it is sold. Duhhhhhhhh......

Most artists just move an item from their Inventory to SOLD. Done. Calculating Inventory is magic or subject to their creative imagination.

The IRS only wants to see clear and accurate records and neat rows and columns of numbers.

The I.R.S. wants to see how you calculated your Cost of Goods Sold. 

The I.R.S. wants to see unmistakable evidence that you are acting in a business-like manner.

Cost of Goods scratches and scribbles Scribbles and arrows are NOT good enough. You need to know how much each item/artwork costs to make. Each finished piece adds to your Finished Goods Inventory. 

So, month after month, year after year, the cost of your Finished Goods for each finished piece keeps adding to your Inventory.  By keeping an ongoing Inventory Record for each artwork or piece, the rest of this accounting becomes a lot easier.

Finally, when you sell a finished piece/artwork, you know exactly how much it cost you, right? The Finished Goods number becomes the Cost of Goods Sold for that piece. You already wrote the amount down in your Inventory Record.

Repeat, the dollar amount for Finished Goods now becomes the "Cost of Goods Sold" for the piece.  You subtract the amount from Inventory and add it to the end-of-year total for Cost of Goods SOLD. Voila! you've calculated your Cost of Goods Sold for the year.

Cost of Goods Sold example Ideally, as the year progresses, your list of SOLD work gets longer and your inventory decreases.

This post was updated on January 21, 2022.

AOL yellow and orange tin can earrings by Harriete Estel Berman
AOL Earrings by Harriete Estel Berman