Tax time for the Freelance Artist…don’t be scared, be prepared!

Written by NZINGHA for TheGlamSquadFiles

Ugh!!! Tax time!!! WHYYYYYYY????!!!?!? The key word in FREELANCE is FREE right? 

Yes free is in the word freelance, BUT nothing is free in this world we live in with everything being taxed in some form or fashion. When you’re an Artist you may think this leaves you exempt from the way the rest of the world does things but no dear heart. You have to report your income just like everyone else in the world does. No one really lives of the grid except the homeless (and even they are on the radar somehow, crazy right?).

Okay, so with all that said how do you navigate all of this W2, W9, 1099 madness? Why does tax time really mean to us and do we really get tax returns as freelancers? Would it be better if I do it myself so I can get the most from my tax return? What if you are an Artist that is incorporated, how does that work in my favor or not? Mmmmmaybe it’s best to just find an accountant that is specific to Artists? Where do I begin to look for an “Artistic Acoountant” or Artist sensitive accountant ?

A W-2 reports your annual wages and the amount your employer already withheld to pay federal and state income, Social Security and Medicare taxes. Your employer sends you a copy and the IRS a copy. An IRS computer matches the information on it against your tax return — a.k.a your 1040 — so if the numbers on your W-2 are wrong, ask immediately for a corrected form. The same goes for any 1099s you’ve gotten reporting interest or miscellaneous income. You should receive all forms by hard copy by snail mail by early February.

 Okay let’s start here with what is know in the tax world as DEDUCTIONS. This is a basic list of typical expenses incurred by artists. You may have other things you may want to add. I have always been told that it’s best to save ALL receipts for anything I purchase and indeed I have made it a personal lifelong habit ever since I got into this Makeup/Entertainment Industry. So I keep ALL receipts! I file them two ways Neat Recipets App and with the Foreciepts App this way I don’t have to keep paper all over the house and if I need to do print outs I can do them all in one if I need to (just in case you ever get audited). When you’re dealing with any tax accountant be sure you let them know you have deductions even before they give you their pre-recorded, pre-memorized monologue (because they deal with so many people around tax time, you don’t want to fall into the cracks of not being able to get the most for your money).

Artist Deductions List

  1. Art supplies
  2. Books
  3. magazines
  4. reference material
  5. Business giftsBusiness insurance
  6. Business meals and entertainment
  7. Cabs, subways, buses
  8. Copying, printing
  9. Cultural events/ museum entrance fees
  10. Entry fees
  11. Equipment and software
  12. Film & processing
  13. Framing
  14. Gallery fees
  15. Gas and electric
  16. Internet
  17. Legal fees
  18. Memberships (museums, professional organizations)
  19. Messengers, private mail carriers, postage
  20. Office supplies
  21. Promotion
  22. Studio or home office rent
  23. Tax preparation
  24. Telephone
  25. TravelAgency/management fees
  26. Books, magazines, music
  27. Business gifts
  28. Business insurance
  29. Business meals and entertainment
  30. Cabs, subways, buses/automobiles
  31. Copying, printing
  32. Cultural events
  33. Equipment and software
  34. Film & processing
  35. Gratuities
  36. Home office: rent, gas & electric, insurance
  37. Instrument and equipment repair
  38. Instrument purchases
  39. Memberships (museums, professional organizations)
  40. Messengers, private mail carriers, postage
  41. Music library: dvds, videos, records, tapes
  42. Music supplies
  43. Musician fees
  44. Office supplies
  45. Promotion
  46. Studio/rehearsal space rent
  47. Tax preparation/legal fees
  48. Telephone/internet
  49. Theatrical clothing
  50. Travel

This is usually where it starts for most of us when we sign on to do a project W9 forms. This is what most companies use to list their employees and at the end of the year during tax time you are sent W2 from the company to file your personal taxes. All the deductions that have accrued during the time you’ve worked for that company and taxes you’ve had taken off your checks all begin with the signing of this form.

If you’re a freelancer or incorporated freelancer you should always have a copy of W9’s available in your home office just in case a clients accounting department requires you to fill one out in exchange for your services. Below please feel free to make your own copies in a PDF form so you can have them for yourself without having to pay for a form online (WINK, smile it’s gonna be okay).


    Here are some great reference sites I found to get smarter about your tax information and filing procedures. Fear of the  unknown is what can keep you in the dark. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s work smarter not harder in 2016. None of us Artists are perfect BUT I’m sure we all want to get better at navigating this money management and tax filing thing, right? I do hope this post was a bit helpful to someone somewhere.