In No Particular Order: 11 Tax Deductions for Artisits that You May or May Not Know About

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AlexSantoriTis the season!! Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la! Taxes! No? … Not feeling the warm fuzzies of tax season? No kidding. Doing taxes (especially as an entertainer) can really suck some big ol’ nuggets. However! Just because you’re you, I’m going to try and help ya out. I’ll spell out the artists deductions nice and easy so you can go about getting back as much as possible from that dirty lil’ Uncle Sam. And hopefully with out being dry and boring.

You say that already got your taxes taken care of for this season?  ::cough:: overachiever ::cough::  Well, wipe the brown schmutz off your nose and keep reading. Now is a perfect time for you to start keeping track of all this for next year.

**Please keep in mind that I’m really, really, really not a CPA nor a tax professional of any sort. (… But, I play one on TV ::wink::). This is strictly from personal experience and what I’ve learned from people who are much, MUCH smarter than I. 

1. Mileage:

Keep a written log in your car. Write down the miles that you drive for anything career related; auditions, meetings, shows (participating in AND seeing), rehearsals, picking up headshots/supplies, etc

Also, keep track of other “business related local travel”, such as the miles that it took you to get to your tax preparer and even the cost of parking at your auditions and such.

2. Non-Local Business Travel:

If you travel out of town for business (filming, meetings, scouting, etc.), keep track of EVERYTHING. Including airfare, transportation costs, hotel/lodging expenses, coffee/dinner, even the parka that you had to buy on a whim because it unexpectedly started raining while you were on your way to the lunch meeting in Mid-town. (Heads up, you may only deduct 50% of the cost of meals while traveling) **Best tip I have when traveling; I believe that you can deduct a “buffer” of one day on each side of the actual business days. So, you know… use it as you will.

3. Agent/Manager Fees:

If you have both an agent and manager, 25% of your paycheck is already gone before you see a red cent. Ouch. BUT, you may deduct all the fees your agent charges. So, a little less ouchie.

4. Dues/Memberships/Subscriptions:

Union Dues, Showfax Subscription, IMDB Pro, Backstage West, Variety… You get the idea.

5. Education:

This one can span quite a few categories. Such as; classes, dialect DVDs, workshops, coaching, HBO, Netflix, tickets to plays and movies… If you can reasonably argue that it helps you learn and develop your craft/business in some way, jot it down.

6. Promotional Material:

Business cards, headshots, videos, websites, yada, yada…

7. Makeup and Hair:

ONLY if it is directly related to work. Such as, if a director says that she wants you to go blonde for the project, or if you have to use your own money to fix your hair after they made some changes to it during a shoot. (Personally, I thought you looked pretty good in the purple ombre with the feathers. But, whatevs.)  Keep that receipt, sugar butt!

8. Wardrobe:

Same principle holds for clothing; if it’s something specific like your “Nurse Scrubs” for headshots/auditions, or the zebra costume for the spec commercial you shot, great! If it’s that cute top you found at Forever 21 that you wear all the time… not so much.  OH. And the cost of dry cleaning your professional wear is deductible too.

9. Business Cellphone:

Be careful with this one, kiddos. You actually need to physically have a second cell phone that you use separately and strictly for business in order to get a full deduction. Otherwise I think that you can only deduct a small percentage. (Keep in mind, if audited, you may need to prove that that other phone is real and used for what you say it is.)

10. Business Meals/ Events:

To deduct the cost of a meal, you must have a serious and specific business discussion before, during, or soon after the event. I know what you’re thinking, how do they prove that you didn’t talk about business? Truth is, that’s not their problem. If you get audited, you’re the one that needs to prove that you did talk about business. (Hint: write on the receipt the name of the person you met with and what you talked about. They might need to vouch for you.)

So, please don’t try to write off your 3am trips to the Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru.

11. Legal and Professional Services:

Ooooo! You’s fancy! You have an entertainment lawyer. So, I’m sure that they let you know that you can deduct fees that you pay to attorneys, accountants, consultants, and other professionals if the fees are paid for work related to your acting business.

Long story short; keep track of everything. Even if you’re not sure if it’s applicable, hold on to it. The worst that could happen is that your tax person gives you that “nice try, honey” look. Speaking of official tax peeps, GET ONE. Especially one that works with a lot of actors/entertainers. Personally, I’m in love with Chuck Sloan and Associates (Especially Jordana. That girl is my jam). Maybe this all sounds like overkill. But, all I can say is that It. Is. Worth. It.