Performing Artist Tax Return and Deduction Checklist
You spend your days making art and delighting audiences, so doing your taxes might seem a bit mundane and boring. But putting together a really comprehensive tax return might be the smartest thing you do all year – and getting a good refund will give you more freedom to continuing being creative and doing what you love!
Every good artist needs a good director or conductor or choreographer to bring out their best, and it's much the same with tax. Having the right expert on hand to guide you, such as one of our experienced H&R Block consultants, can make all the difference and they can help make sure you don't miss out on any important deductions that could make a difference to your bottom line.
To complete your return as a performing artist employed by a company, you'll first need an income statement from your employer (previously called a "payment summary" or "group certificate"). This is a summary that outlines all of your salary, wages, allowances and bonuses for the financial year.
You won't need to have a copy of this statement, as it should be lodged by your employer directly to the ATO. Once this has been lodged, we can download the information for you and then help you work out your deductions.
What do I need to know about claiming deductions?
As you know, you're entitled to claim deductions on any money spent during the financial year on products or services that directly related to earning an income. But there are two things you need to remember:
1. First, you need to have spent the money yourself (it can't have been reimbursed by your employer), and
2. Secondly, you need to keep a record of the expense such as a receipt or invoice.
What deductions can I claim?
There is a wide range of deductions you can claim as a performing artist, such as:
- Car expenses, including parking costs and tolls, if you travel between different jobs on the same day (for example from rehearsals at a theatre to a second job working in a restaurant) or to different locations for your work, such as from a costume fitting at the company studio to a radio station for an interview
- Commissions paid to theatrical agents
- Buying, repairing and cleaning any work clothing items that are either protective (such as sunglasses or a sunhat when performing outdoors) or are specifically required for your job (such as a burlesque dancer who must purchase make up and costume items)
- Any grooming costs, including hairdressing services and buying items of make up, that are related to a specific role (for example an unusual haircut or specialist make up remover)
- Multimedia expenses directly related to your work, such as downloading music files or tapes that will be used for rehearsals
- Any meals you buy and eat when you work overtime, but only if you get an overtime meal allowance under an industrial law, award or enterprise agreement and it's included in your assessable income
- Phone and internet expenses for any work-related usage on your personal phone or device, provided they are not already covered by your employer
- Costs connected to maintaining a photographic portfolio for publicity purposes, but not the original cost of creating the portfolio
- Any costs incurred when researching a new role or character you've been employed to play, such as books or visits to a museum, or theatre/film tickets if the show has content directly related to your current work
- Self education costs for attending any courses, training or seminars specifically related to your current area of work, such as a masterclass in singing when you are already employed as a singer
- Journals, periodicals and magazines that are specifically related to your job as a performing artist
- Any expenses related to buying and insuring equipment or tools specifically required for your work, such as musical instruments or play scripts
- The cost of a first aid training course if you're a designated first aid person in the rehearsal room or performance space and need to do first aid training to assist in emergency situations
- Working from home office or rehearsal space expenses such as heating or cooling, and repairs to equipment
- Travel expenses such as accommodation and meals if you travel for work and need to stay away from home overnight (for example, if you are performing in another city for one or more nights) and pay these expenses yourself
What can't I claim?
There are several key expenses you can't claim, including:
- Any regular clothing worn to your workplace that could also be worn outside of work (such as leggings or a white t-shirt) or any fitness clothing even if you only wear it for work and bought it specifically to wear to work
- Any upfront fees, joining fees or search fees paid to a theatrical agency
- Any costs connected to preparing for or attending auditions (as these are connected to the process of getting work, rather than doing work)
- Any expenses connected to childcare while you are working
- Self education costs for attending any courses, training or seminars designed to help you to get work in a new area, for example if you are working as a theatre usher but are taking acting classes at night
- The cost of any meals or snacks consumed during the course of a normal work day, even if you are given an allowance by your employer to cover the meal expense
- The cost of any entertainment, including attendance at award nights, gala or social nights, concerts or other similar types of functions or events, even if there's an entertainment industry connection
- The cost of buying gifts such as flowers or alcohol for fellow performers, producers or directors
- Fees connected to pay television and streaming services
- Any expenses related to getting prescription glasses or contact lenses, unless they are tinted contact lenses to alter eye colour, or special spectacle frames that are required for a role
- Any costs incurred for general health and fitness, such as gym memberships, weight loss programs, food substitutes or vitamin supplements unless your job requires an unusually high level of fitness (such as a ballet dancer or trapeze artist)
- Any grooming costs, including hairdressing services and buying items of make up, that are not related to a specific role but are just general for the purpose of being well presented
- Any costs incurred when travelling between your home and your workplace, even if you live a long distance away
What records do I need to keep?
Records are definitely in the spotlight, come tax time. So you need to stay on top of things and have a comprehensive set of receipts if you want to get a good tax refund. It's a smart idea to create an easy and reliable system to help you keep on top of this throughout the year.
Remember, you don't need to keep physical receipts, and it's acceptable to keep a digital copy (such as a photo of a receipt or an email receipt) provided it is possible to read:
- The name of the supplier
- Amount of the expense
- Nature of the goods or services
- Date the expense was paid
- Date of the document
You also don't need to keep receipts for expenses under $10 (as long as these don't cumulatively come to more than $200).
What happens if I make a mistake in my tax return?
It can be scary when you realise that you've made a mistake but the best thing to do is to deal with it head on and as soon as possible. This is always the best approach. It's essential that you take great care in putting together the information and supporting documentation when filing your tax return, and only claim deductions that are genuine to avoid penalties and possibly even prosecution from the ATO.
It's quite easy to make an innocent mistakes sometimes, when you're not used to filing returns. If you realise you've submitted any incorrect or unsubstantiated claims then you should contact your accountant immediately and they will assist you in making the necessary amendments.
Still have some questions about lodging your tax return? Talk to H&R Block. Our experienced tax consultants will be able to help. Call 13 23 25 for details or find your nearest office and book an appointment online.
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