How to Choose an Expense Category For Items You Purchase


Sometimes family child care providers get stuck with a record keeping problem and call me.

“I recently bought a photo album/scrapbook to display photos during my parent interviews. What expense category should I put it under? Advertising? Supplies?”

Or, “I purchased some toys and printer cartridges on one receipt from Target. Should I break out the cost of these two items and list them under separate expense categories?”

Let’s resolve these dilemmas quickly. Put your receipts in any expense category you want!

No matter what expense category you put an item in, all expenses will eventually be added together on your tax form Schedule C.

So, it doesn’t matter what category you choose.

Don’t know what to call the photo album/scrapbook? Call it advertising or call it supplies.

Don’t separate out the toys and printer cartridges. Call everything on the receipt either toys or printer cartridges. I’d probably choose the category that I spent the most money on.

Let’s not create any more stress around your record keeping. Pick an expense category and move on.

Two Situations

There are two situations where you should be selective in what expense category you choose. All of your house expenses belong on Form 8829 Expenses for Business Use of Your Home (property tax, mortgage interest, house insurance, utilities, house repairs, and house depreciation). These expenses will then be transferred onto your Schedule C. Note: If you do child care in a home you don’t live in, don’t file Form 8829. Instead put your house expenses directly onto Schedule C.

Secondly, don’t lump the vast majority of your expenses under Supplies on Schedule C. If the expenses on any one line of your Schedule C are significantly larger than all your other expenses, this may attract attention from the IRS. You may be tempted to put many of your expenses here because there doesn’t seem to be any other place for them to go. Instead, spread your expenses over several different lines.

A Solution

I’ve come up with a guideline to help you choose an expense category for items you purchase. In my book Family Child Care Record Keeping Guide, I list over 1,000 allowable business deductions. I’ve listed each deduction under a specific expense category as they appear on Schedule C and Form 8829, and in the order they appear on the tax forms! The book has an alphabetical Index of all the expenses so it’s easy to see what category each expense falls under.

Because you have many expenses that don’t seem to fit under any of the Schedule C expense categories, I created five additional categories: Food, Toys, Household Items, Cleaning Supplies and Activity Expenses. I believe that these categories will satisfy most providers.

The expense categories I’ve chosen for the 1,000 deductions are a suggestion. You don’t need to follow what’s in my book. You can create your own categories and put them on one of the lines on the back of Schedule C. Tax preparers may have their own categories they want you to use. It’s up to you.

If you use the Minute Menu Kids Pro software, it lists the expense categories as they appear on your tax forms and it uses my five additional categories. You can also create five new categories of your own. Note: when I help providers who are members of The Child Care Business Partnership I find that often they struggle over what expense category to use. I’ve been able to simplify their record keeping.

If you use the Redleaf Calendar-Keeper, it contains two pages each month to enter your expenses. The expense categories are shown in the order that they appear on Schedule C and include my five additional categories.

I’m always happy to be able to tell providers when they can reduce the amount of time they spend on record keeping. This is one of those situations.

Tom Copeland –

Image credit:

Record Keeping smallFor more information, see my book Family Child Care Record Keeping Guide.

Categories: Record Keeping, Record Keeping & Taxes

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4 replies

  1. So if we get the Minute Menu Pro, do we still or should we purchase the Family Childcare Record Keeping Guide or the Red Leaf Calendar Keeper

  2. I’m new to all of this. Started this year. I havr Minute Menu and I’ve been recording everything under ‘supplies’ Do I need to go I’m & separate it all out to the right category? And if so, what if I have toys & groceries in the same receipt?

  3. How do use webinar for Marsh 15th? Already signed up but never used before. Help.

    • You will get an email shortly before the webinar with a link that will take you to it. If you don’t get this email by Tuesday, contact NAFCC. Once you click on the webinar link you will see my powerpoint screen and will be able to hear me speak.

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