Re: taxes & film expenses

From: Jason Cortlund (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Jun 23 2008 - 20:13:42 PDT

I am not a CPA, but here's what I know to be true.

Yes, Schedule C is exactly what you'd use to write off expenses--but
you have to save your receipts throughout the year. It's perfectly
legitimate for artists to write off things like: research materials
(any and all movie tickets, video rentals, Broadway shows, crappy band
cover charges, CDs, book and magazine purchases--it all goes into the
subconscious kitty for future reference, you know); travel associated
with research/production/performance; 50% of meals associated with
your work; office supplies; shipping and postage; entry fees &
professional services related to your art; and of course all things
like film/video stock; plus more. You can also amortize large
equipment purchases as a depreciating expense over several years (you
shouldn't write off that $5000 laptop or $8000 HD cam in one year).

As far as income goes, yes it does help to have income that's directly
related to your work. But if you get a grant or two or a private
donation, that's income. More important that income is profit versus
loss. You probably don't want to claim massive losses due to the
expenses of your artistic endeavors year after year. The general rule
I've heard is that you need to show some kind of profit 3 out of every
5 years. It's helpful to know also that just because you have
legitimate expenses doesn't mean you need to claim all of them.

If you claim loss after loss, year after year on your Schedule C, then
you might get audited and the IRS might tell you the deductions aren't
fair, and then they'll call your work a "hobby" and not a legitimate
profession. And then your parents will be validated and it all comes
crashing down. But in the right circumstances, the "C" can save you a
lot of money--fair and square.

If you're really feel nervous about it, there are some CPAs out there
who offer discounted rates for artists to help them prepare their
returns (if you're a member of any professional artist societies or
collectives, check with their offices--maybe they can put you in

Best of luck,

Jason Cortlund

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.