Tax Tips for Artists

By Joe Weatherby

January 1, 2010, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

Home in Office
If you book your gigs from home and/or rehearse there, you may take the portion of your apartment that is used exclusively and year round for that purpose. If it’s just a desk in a corner, it’s still worth taking as it enables you to take mileage every time you leave your home to go work. Otherwise, without Home in Office, your first and last trips of the day are for commute and are not deductible

Qualified Performing Artist
Within the tax year, if you have worked two dance related jobs for at least $200 each, have spent 10% of what you earned on your “craft” and have made less than $16,000 ($32K if married), you qualify to use the Qualified Performing Artist status. This enables you to take ALL of your deductions directly off your income on Form 1040 (line 24). The best way to go if you qualify.

Dancer Deductions:
no receipt = no deduction

Save all of your receipts together in a safe place (drawer, accordion folder, or a shoebox). Any money you spend on your craft, whether for working or trying to find work is a deductible expense. Deductions, defined by the IRS are “ordinary” (reasonable amount spent on the deduction) and “necessary” (necessary for your work, or trying to find work).

Receipts include the actual receipt, cancelled checks, and credit card statements.

Keep your calendar, journal, or schedule up to date and save with receipts for three years after the date of filing. In times of an audit, possibly two years after you file, you can refer to your calendar to justify receipts for work, rehearsal and auditioning or taking classes. You can also refer to your calendar to record mileage. You can easily Mapquest your work place and your home to get mileage totals. Finally, parking and Laundromats don’t provide receipts and can be recorded on your calendar as well.

Your body is truly your art instrument
So the care of your instrument (chiropractor, acupuncture, yoga, gym, massage, etc.) or a percentage thereof, may be taken as a Schedule C (Sole Proprietor) deduction (Legal and Professional Services) rather than as a medical deduction on Schedule A. This is true for dancers only.

Certain deductible items are used partly for work and partly for personal. For instance, make-up or the purchase of a computer. In such cases, take a percentage of the deduction relevant to how much the item is used in your work but save all of the receipts for the same in case of audit.

Travel Per Diems
If you travel for work, trying to find work or studying dance, you may take standard per diem rates for food and lodging without needing any receipts.

Although costumes are not a legitimate deduction, dancers are permitted to take all of the clothing and shoes used to rehearse and perform if they are exclusively for dance and cannot be used in your personal wardrobe.

A few more tips
• Create a clear filing system
• Record when you audition, rehearse, and work
• Save your old resumes and performance photos
• Save programs of shows you were in

This article appeared in the January/February 2010 issue of In Dance.

Joe Weatherby, a local theatre worker (actor/director/writer) is a licensed California Tax Preparer and has been working with artists since 1988.