(Creative Commons photo by Ken Teegardin)
Tax season is here again. Don’t be afraid to dive into the benefits of claiming items as a musician. If you feel overwhelmed, by all means ask a professional to help. Most musicians will be scrambling to put all of their receipts in order to figure out what exactly they can claim on their taxes. The best advice I can give you is to make sure you document everything. Create a spreadsheet to track all your income and expenses. This will make a world of difference when it comes to filing your taxes.
Let’s go through a few things that you can claim as an expense.
Mileage – Packing up the van and driving 1000 miles is fun, right? OK, maybe not the most fun, but it can be a tax write off. If you own your vehicle remember to keep track of your mileage to and from gigs. You can also use technology to help. MileIQ is a great app for your smart phone to automatically keep track of your mileage. You can also mark which trips in your car are personal, or business related. Then you just compile the business trips for your taxes.
Gear – If you bought something to helps your career as a musician, then claim it on your taxes. Sometimes this helps take the pain out of having G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome). For some of us, it is the only way we can afford to really get the gear we need. Just remember that you need to pony up the cash up front, and you’ll have to wait until your taxes are filed to see the benefits.
Advertising – These days more of us are using advertising in our musician lives. Things like Facebook ads are a tax write off. Make sure to keep track, or just log into Facebook to see a list of what you did over the last year.
rental cars – Did you rent a van last year to get to a gig? Boom! That is deductible. Just remember that you can’t claim mileage on a rental vehicle. Renting a van is a good idea for when you don’t play a lot of live shows in a year. You don’t have the cost of maintenance, and you can claim your expenses during tax time. Did you pay for gas? Don’t forget to save receipts for that as well.
I’m no tax expert, so always ask a tax professional for full details. I’ve put together a small list of other articles online that cover this topic as well. There is some great advice in these articles, so check them out as well.
Whatever you decide to do, do it legitimately. Don’t try to cheat the system. The last thing you want to deal with is an IRS audit. You will still benefit if you follow the rules, so make sure you do it legit.