Tax Deductions for Performing Artists

Performing Artist

Making money by performing in front of an audience, whether you dance, sing, play an instrument or some other act, can be incredibly rewarding - even at tax time. You may be considered an employee of a place if you work specifically at that venue. In that case, you can expect to receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement from the venue.

Many performing artists freelance, or work for different venues, which classifies them as self-employed. Self-employed performers have to report all their income and wages through a Schedule C, Profit and Loss from Business. The places you perform may send you a Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income. You must pay tax on any income greater than $400. You may have to pay estimated tax payments throughout the year with the IRS to cover the amount of self-employment tax you would owe.

You can save some money at tax time by deducting work-related expenses you incurred that were not reimbursed by a third party. Miscellaneous itemized deductions are subject to a 2% limitation of you adjusted gross income. You'll also need complete documentation of all your expenses in case of an audit. Some examples of expenses you can deduct include:

  • Cost of promotional materials including business cards, resume services, website maintenance and development, and portfolio presentations
  • Salaries paid to agents, managers, or personal assistants
  • Travel expenses for auditions and job searches, meetings and seminars
  • Professional membership dues
  • Costume alterations, cleaning, and purchase, as long as they are not suitable for everyday wear
  • Props and makeup used in performances and appearances
  • Voice lessons
  • Subscriptions to professional journals

Many professional performers spend money for maintenance and upkeep to their aesthetic persona, including fitness, hair care, and clothing. These expenses benefit everyday life, so they are not directly related to the job, and therefore are not deductible.

There are some expenses that may be able for a dollar-for-dollar adjustment of your income when you file your return. In order to deduct these expenses as a miscellaneous itemized deduction, you have to meet all of the following requirements:

  • You're employed by at least two different employers
  • These two employers pay you at least $200 in wages
  • Expenses related to your performance are greater than 10% of you gross income from the performance
  • Your AGI is less than $16,000 before deductions. If you're married, you have to file jointly with your spouse and combine your AGI to get the total. The requirement is related to the combined income of you and your spouse.