Freelancer Tax Calculator

So, it’s early 2015. If you’re a freelancer like me, you may be experiencing the cold sweats of oncoming tax season. How much am I going to owe? Do I have enough stashed in my savings to cover it (LOL “savings”?!?!)? Wait… I’ve got it! During tax season, I’ll hide under some coats and hope that, somehow, everything will work out.

My fairy godfather.
My fairy godfather.

Okay, so maybe that’s not a bulletproof plan. I figured I should probably get this sorted out at the beginning of the year: make myself a spreadsheet with formulas that will magically tell me what I owe the government, and what I will have left over to spend on rent, groceries, bills, and piles of vintage clothing (which will come in handy in case I ever do need to hide under some coats).

As soon as I made this wonderful thing, I knew it was too useful to keep to myself, so I give you… the Freelancer Tax Calculator spreadsheet! Just click the link to download it. You can delete the first row once you’ve set everything up – it’s just to show you how it works.

(If you don’t charge HST on your invoices, download this version: Freelancer Tax Calculator – No HST. Just note that all my pics below use the other spreadsheet as a reference, and your column letters will be different.)

My spreadsheet uses my marginal tax rate to automatically calculate, for each invoice, how much I need to set aside for tax time. Find out your marginal tax rate with this tool. Just click on your province or territory, and enter the amount of income you expect to make this year (you can use last year’s total as a rough guide). Jot down the amount beside “your marginal rate is…” – that’s what you’ll be using in the spreadsheet.

Once you know your marginal tax rate, you’ll want to adjust the formula in the spreadsheet’s red F-column, labelled “Income Tax” (the D-column if you’re using the spreadsheet for freelancers who don’t charge HST). To change the formula, click on cell F2 (D2 if you don’t charge HST) and you’ll see the formula appear in the box just above the top of the columns that has a “fx” beside it. The current formula takes the pre-tax invoice amount (in this case, $500) in box C2 and multiplies it by my marginal tax rate, 20.1%. So you can see the formula in the box says “=C2*0.201”. Highlight the “201” and replace it with whatever your marginal tax rate is (so if yours is 32.5%, put a “325” after the decimal place). Then hit enter. Boom!

Screen shot 2015-01-26 at 4.56.01 PM

Now, you’ll want to make sure that same formula applies to all the other invoices you enter in the future. To do this, click on cell F2 (D2 if you don’t charge HST) and you’ll see a little blue square appear on the bottom right corner of the cell. Click this blue square and drag it down, down, down the F (or D) column as many rows as you think you’ll need (i.e. as many paycheques as you expect you’ll get this year). This will ensure that all values in the F (or D) column will be auto-generated based on your marginal tax rate, multiplied by the invoice amount you enter into the C column in the same row.

If you charge HST but live in a province or territory that isn’t Ontario, you will want to follow these same steps to adjust the formula for HST, which currently multiples cell C2 by 0.13 (because Ontario’s HST is 13%). Once you adjust the formula to reflect your province/territory’s HST amount, make sure you click and drag the little blue square down to apply the same formula to all other cells in that column!

EDIT: Don’t forget that if you hang onto receipts, you can take advantage of tax write-offs and ITCs (write-offs of the HST you spend) for business-related things like pens & notebooks, home office expenses, and admission to exhibits/events related to your subject area! These write-offs can bring down the total amount you owe at tax time, so it might end up being less than this spreadsheet tells you. But hey, that just means you end up with a little reward in your savings account for being such a boss-ass money babe and keeping track of your shit.

And there you have it. A way to keep track of approximately what you’ll owe at next year’s tax time (disclaimer: it probably won’t be exact! but this will mean you’re not hundreds or thousands of dollars in the hole!). Every time you get paid, just plug the pre-tax invoice amount into the C column and you’re good to go. Now you can set it aside as you go and avoid the cold sweats in early 2016. Sorry I can’t help you with this year’s tax season, but let me know if you need to borrow some coats.

Friday the Thirteenth Again

The Harper government’s horrifying, draconian sex work legislation will result in violence and death for countless sex workers. It cannot pass, and in order for us to stop it, we need to scream about it. All of us. Please read and share.

The Honest Courtesan

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.  –  Martin Luther King, Jr.

red umbrella ballToday is the first Friday the 13th in fourteen months, and since I’ve picked up quite a few readers since July of 2012 a number of you are probably wondering what that has to do with anything.  Well, it’s just this:  from soon after the beginning of this blog, I’ve asked those of you who aren’t sex workers yourselves to speak up for our rights on this day.  The gay rights movement didn’t really take off until the friends and families of gay people got involved, and it’s the same for us; since only about 1% of Western women ever formally work as whores, we’re going to need a lot of help to make our voices heard.  We need all the sex workers (such…

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(Web)making it better for girls in tech at MozFest

Me standing in front of the MozFest "To Make/Making/Made" scrum board. Photo by Sammy James Dodds.
The MozFest “To Make/Making/Made” board. Photo by Sammy James Dodds

My passion runs high for getting more girls into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), so I was thrilled to be invited to Mozilla’s annual festival in London, UK this October to facilitate the development of a Girls in Tech teaching kit. MozFest is a sprawling, buzzing, beeping, humming multi-floor combination of science fair, conference and hackathon. I knew from previous experience with Mozilla that MozFest would be colour-saturated, high-energy and hospitable for a variety of learners. What I didn’t know is how hospitable the space would be for a critical feminist perspective on girls in tech.

I’ve worked and volunteered in a wide variety of “women in tech” spaces and, in my experience, most of them serve up gallons of delicious status quo Kool-Aid. Everyone laments the lack of women’s representation in the field, but the solutions usually espoused are typically of the “Lean In” variety: “If we all just work hard!…” We foist the solutions onto women’s shoulders and refuse to do anything about the commonly accepted beliefs and behaviours that perpetuate the problem. Beliefs and behaviours like rampant objectification of women (Titstare, anyone?), industry worship of a faulty concept of meritocracy, and those pesky, deeply-held sexist cultural beliefs about gender (and what different genders are capable of).

There is an intimate and nuanced connection between how women are treated and represented as technology makers, users, and in the products themselves (e.g. video game characters). This means that, in the long game, changing how women are treated in one sphere will probably impact their representation in other spheres. But it also means that we can’t just focus on creating spaces for girls to become technology makers, without making changes elsewhere in the industry culture. Otherwise we’re helping girls build the skills and confidence they need to kick ass in tech, then sending them into an occupational community ill-equipped to understand and welcome women kicking ass.

Much like how our culture treats the problem of sexual assault, we are more comfortable prescribing ways that women can think or behave to improve their lot in tech than we are prescribing changes for men and the industry’s gendered normative behaviour. Perhaps that’s because, as Clementine Ford suggests in the context of sexual violence, it is easier to understand the women in our lives as potential victims than the men in our lives as potential aggressors (or Part Of The Problem).

That’s why, when I had the opportunity to build a Girls in Tech teaching kit at MozFest, I wanted it to touch on gender stereotypes and sexism – despite the fact that, in other “women in tech” spaces, I have been explicitly discouraged from describing myself as a feminist or addressing the industry’s problems with sexism. When I worked with Mozilla before, they heartily encouraged my feminist muckraking with their Webmaker suite (they even shared some of it on the main stage at MozFest!), so I was hopeful. I felt I was in the right space to make a gender-critical Girls in Tech kit happen, but was still pretty sure I’d come up against pushback from a prospective scrum participant.

Imagine my surprise when every single conversation I had at MozFest about the kit (or women in tech more generally) delved comfortably into critical and political territory. Imagine my surprise when, even if a few of the people at the table had a less critical understanding of the problem, there was always someone to back me up. Imagine my surprise when every. educator. I worked with. understood my need to combine positivity and encouragement with critical analysis of industry and cultural norms and the false premises on which they rest. Imagine my surprise when I sheepishly proposed a less political angle for one activity, and the scrum group I was facilitating unanimously disagreed with me. There just aren’t enough <3’s in the world.

The first iteration of my Girls in Tech teaching kit is the product of 10 people, many of them educators, who were drawn to the project because they are passionate about making the STEM fields more hospitable places for women. MozFest was a gigantic event practically exploding with awesome things to see, do and make (highlights in the MozFest blog, Flickr and Tumblr), yet most of these people spent the better part of Saturday building a component of the Girls in Tech kit. Many others stopped by to ask questions or show their support of the project. Within nine hours we completed the kit’s first iteration, from learning objectives to activities to examples to discussion questions. And then I slept for, oh, five minutes, and hopped on a plane back to Toronto to do a(n also very awesome) workshop with Long & McQuade department managers on how to not be this guy.

The pace of work, the support and independence afforded to facilitators, the level of talent and commitment, and the tone of MozFest in general left me feeling exhilarated and inspired. I can’t wait to workshop the kit with a few more educators, refine its content and hopefully encourage a few organizations to adopt it as a free teaching tool. Feel free to use and remix the Girls in Tech teaching kit yourself, or share it with a parent or educator in your life.

Scrubbing racism from the air we breathe

This post contained some reflections on the racist assumptions and stereotypes that laid the groundwork for the unjust verdict exonerating George Zimmerman, who racially profiled and killed teenage boy Trayvon Martin. In the post (after a trigger warning for examples of racism), I admitted to having been in some ways influenced by these awful and pervasive stereotypes, and the horror and shame that this realization induced in me.

I wrote about it because, like many white people, I was afraid to admit this to myself for a long time because on a conscious level I abhor racism, love my friends of colour, and want a world that doesn’t oppress people based on race. I thought perhaps my admitting it publicly would spur other white folks to engage in similarly critical self-reflection, which I think is wholly necessary if we are to truly address our racist culture.

Some preliminary feedback indicates the post did spur that kind of self-reflection. However, it also caused pain for friends of mine, friends who are already experiencing enough pain in the wake of the verdict. I think there may be some value to this type of reflection in eradicating racism, until I have found better ways to share these reflections that don’t cause pain to the people who are oppressed by them, I opted to remove this post.

If it’s a coercive conquest, you’re doing sex wrong

You may have heard about a recent Kickstarter campaign for a “seduction guide” that ignited a furious tweetstorm and earned the company some bad press. The manual reads more like a guide to sexual coercion than seduction, though the way our popular culture treats the latter, they may as well be interchangeable.

The author counsels that “personal space is for pussies”, and encourages (at the very least implicitly male) readers to eschew permission and get physical with the women they pursue. “Force her to rebuff your advances,” the author advises, because “Even when a girl rejects your advances, she KNOWS that you desire her. That’s hot. It arouses her physically and psychologically.” Um… okay.

The author has been publishing this material piecemeal on the r/seduction subreddit for years, and thanks to reddit’s boundless enthusiasm for Pick Up Artist (PUA)-flavoured material, his Kickstarter project exponentially overachieved its goal. For its part, Kickstarter responded to the blowback with an apology and a new policy prohibiting any future “seduction guide”-type campaigns from the site. This policy change shows integrity on the company’s part, and was a welcome contribution to the debate. But banning these projects from Kickstarter isn’t going to make much of a dent in the tidal wave of cultural cues that feed PUA culture.

It’s important that we don’t think of “PUA culture” as a fringe subculture, but as a dominant set of cues and practices that socialize young men’s understandings of sex and relationships. PUA culture isn’t just Toronto’s notorious rape advocate Dimitri the Lover or Tom Cruise’s seduction guru character Frank “T.J.” Mackey in Magnolia. PUA culture is also every romantic comedy where a male character relentlessly pursues a love interest (typically a woman, because movies and PUA culture are both preeeeeeetty damned heterosexist), often winning her affections in the end. PUA culture is befriending a person you find attractive with the silent goal of hooking up with them, and getting huffy when your strategy doesn’t go according to plan.

This “playing hard to get” trope is ancient in our culture, and over the years it has had a profound impact on sexual relations writ large. Among other things, it is (at least in part) responsible for the inability or unwillingness of many hetero men and boys to read women’s pretty unambiguous non-verbal cues. This happens at work, on public transportation, in our own homes and the homes of people we consider friends. A totally not-exhaustive list of such cues includes: recoiling from a touch, avoiding eye contact, giving one-word answers or outright ignoring. If you’re making advances on a woman and she is responding in this manner, ABORT THE MISSION.

Better yet, don’t look at it as a mission, because this is not a tactical military operation. It is (one would hope) seeking companionship and/or a mutually gratifying sexual experience. Notice how both of those things involve active participation and enthusiasm on the part of all involved? If participation and enthusiasm from your partner(s) aren’t at the top of your list of desired outcomes, pause and consider why you are making these advances in the first place.

You find this person attractive, yes. Don’t you want them to enjoy their encounter(s) with you, instead of feeling cornered or worn down or talked into it? I don’t think I even need to ask where the fun would be for the person you want to have sex with (spoiler alert: it’s nowhere! no fun! just awfulness!), but what about for you? Is it fun to get it on with someone who doesn’t feel 100% on-board with the idea of getting it on with you? If you answered “yes” to that last question, you may want to reconsider… a lot of things about your life.

I got to thinking about all this because a Very Smart Person on the internet, @mallelis, went on a righteous tweet-rant about non-verbal communication and consent, which you should go read in my Storify. In a nutshell she argues that, while ideally women should verbally and forthrightly communicate their yeses and nos, men should also be taught to pay attention to the many other ways that consent and non-consent are communicated.

For me, it boils down to men and boys absorbing centuries of cultural conditioning to ignore or dismiss women’s sexual and romantic refusals, and only direct interventions to address that conditioning could possibly stem the problem. Research shows that in other circumstances, we typically have pretty sophisticated abilities to communicate and dissect indirect refusals in conversation, and that HMMMM these “misunderstandings” sure do seem to happen a lot in the context of sex and romance! Specifically, “we suggest that male claims not to have ‘understood’ refusals which conform to culturally normative patterns can only be heard as self-interested justifications for coercive behaviour.” Welp.

Cisters, make today your starting point

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHT). As with all awareness-raising days, it is only one day amid a sea of others on which we tend to be more indifferent to the oppressions and systems of power that we play a role in perpetuating. However, IDAHT and other efforts like it can be useful for people who are in the early stages of coming to terms with their privilege as a straight and/or cis person. People like the person writing this post.

I have never harboured any negativity, discomfort, or dismissive attitudes toward people who don’t share my sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. For a long time I felt like that was enough. Recently I have begun to swallow the fact that there is much I don’t know about the experience of being a person in this world who is gay, a lesbian, trans*, bi, queer, two-spirited, or gender-queer. To be an active part of the solution, I need to educate myself (and, as I develop greater knowledge and perspective, educate other cis and straight people) on what these lived experiences are like and how they differ from my own.

I owe much of my (admittedly limited, but growing) recent understanding to a new friend named Sophia Banks, an immensely talented freelance wedding photographer who has seen a 90% reduction in business since coming out as a trans woman. Via her Twitter account, Sophia candidly and generously shares the anger and pain inflicted upon her and her fellow trans* people (trans women in particular) by cisnormativity and transphobia. I highly recommend you follow her if you are a Twitter user, especially if you are cis. Sophia has explicitly professed that her goal is to build understanding among cis people. Since it is no trans* person’s “job” to provide these insights to cis folks like myself, I am very grateful to her for expending her time and energy in doing so.

Many of the experiences and impacts of transphobia that Sophia has shared are things that I understood before on some cold and abstract level. However, hearing personal stories of how transphobia plays out in people’s lives adds a punch-in-the-gut vividness and urgency. A key example that comes to mind is the scope of transphobia’s economic impacts on trans* people. As we all know (I hope!), lack of income security often spills over to impact other aspects of life including mental health, housing stability, and experiences of violence at the hands of individuals or the state.

Sophia is self-employed, and her billings have seen a steep decline since she came out as a trans woman. Her once-booming business (I mean, look at those gorgeous photos!) has slowed to a trickle and she is hovering dangerously close to eviction. She is concerned that if she continues to work as a woman (i.e. as herself), she will be homeless. No person should have to erase themselves in order to make a living and keep a roof over their head. I Storified some of her evocative tweets about this, please check it out to read it in her own voice.

Ontario recently added discrimination based on gender identity and expression as grounds for a complaint to the Human Rights Commission – an important victory. However, what’s to stop an employer from simply ascribing a more innocuous reason to their choice to not select a trans* job candidate or proposal from a trans* contractor? “If the interviewer is transphobic, it’s hopeless,” says Sophia. The new Human Rights Code, while undoubtedly important, doesn’t seem to deter many employers from expressing and/or condoning harmful and exclusionary attitudes. If you’re cis this next part may shock you (it did me), though I imagine trans* readers may relate: Sophia told me one prospective employer asked her which genitals she had in a job interview. WTFFFFFFFFF

In addition to facing discrimination from employers and clients, the costs can be enormous if a trans* person opts for sex reassignment surgery (SRS) or other medical supports to align physicality with identity. Financial costs for trans women are especially high – $25K isn’t unheard of. Yet for many trans* people, SRS is not an elective surgery but vital. Not to mention the fact that in a cissexist society, aligning your physical sex characteristics with your identity is often the only way to convince people that you’re a Real Woman or Real Man (ugh), despite the fact that the vast majority of people will never encounter your genitals!

Take trans* people’s access to limited resources, couple it with the high levels of post-secondary education required for social work positions these days, and you get a lot of cis people delivering social services to trans* people whose life experiences are unfamiliar to them. For a person experiencing little income security, precarious housing, and/or lack of acceptance (or outright hostility) from family, friends and colleagues, effective and empathetic mental health support and other social services are crucial. And yet, Sophia has struggled to find support groups for trans women that are actually facilitated by one. “I asked why trans women were not facilitating the groups and they said they can’t find any with the qualifications,” she says. “How can any trans woman afford to go to school for an MSW [Master of Social Work] while transitioning?”

Considering these factors, it is perhaps unsurprising that over 40% of trans people attempt suicide. Considering these factors, it is perhaps unsurprising that, when a video game site editor outed a trans woman on Twitter this week mere hours after she had attempted suicide, people were pissed – though not enough cis people by any stretch. Many cis people who I know harbour no ill will toward trans people were not part of the broader discussion around this incident. Shamefully enough, I probably only heard about it because it happened in the gaming community, in which many of the people I follow are active.

I’m sure for every cis person who participated in that discussion, there were a few sitting on the sidelines feeling perturbed by the whole debacle, but uncertain of what to say or how to contribute. I can relate. I want to do right by trans* people. As a well-meaning but relatively clueless cis person, I don’t want to say the wrong thing unwittingly or ask too many questions and end up causing additional hurt, anger or exhaustion.

If you’re a well-meaning but relatively clueless cis person (it’s okay to admit it if you’re willing to do something to change it), IDAHT is one day out of the year, but you can make it your starting point. Today, take some time to learn more about how to best support trans* people, and how to best participate in the fight for justice across the gender spectrum. Here are some places to start, and I definitely encourage you to post any resources you find useful (either as a cis or trans* person) in the comments.

Sort-of Review: Manufacturing Depression

This is less a review of Gary Greenberg’s 2010 book Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease, and more a description of what I loved about it and why it was useful to me.

The book’s title suggests that Greenberg doesn’t believe depression is a real affliction, but that is not at all the crux of the book. The feelings and struggles are very real, and he doesn’t hesitate to share his own history of depression in great detail. While Greenberg’s analysis does not spare Big Pharma, he does not argue that depression is a profit-driven illusion.

Instead he elucidates how profit-driven scientific research and discovery shaped our collective and individual understandings of depression, its role in our lives, and whether/how to cope with it. He illustrates how a lot of psycho-pharmaceutical research involves discovering neurological reactions, then creating conceptual definitions for conditions whose effects would be reversed or mitigated by those reactions.

Greenberg deftly integrates surprisingly colourful research about the science and business of depression with provocative anecdotes about his personal experiences with it (as a sufferer and as a psychologist). There may or may not be a really entertaining and touching story about how taking ecstasy helped him feel emotionally awake and connect with his partner again.

He is a verbose storyteller (which is maybe part of why I like him…) but his tales are vivid, relatable, and sometimes hilarious. He encourages readers to formulate their own narratives for their mental health journeys, and to consider but not confine themselves to definitions and solutions offered by the industries and professionals that diagnose and treat mental health.

Since it’s that day where we all talk about mental health (can we do that more, please?!), it seemed like the perfect time to recommend this book to anyone interested in these issues for personal development or just food for thought.

Kathleen Wynne was the right choice for Ontario

Yesterday evening I wrote a short essay for on why I believe Kathleen Wynne is well positioned to lead her party’s minority government in Ontario.
I did found an organization called “Women in Toronto Politics” so you probably could’ve guessed I’d be thrilled about Ontario’s first woman Premier (and a queer woman at that!). But Wynne stands to offer a lot more than her mere gender identity and sexual orientation. Check out the essay to learn more about why I’m stoked re: this new development!