Taking Care of Actor Business

by Teresa Reilly on April 8, 2009

Welcome to April!  Can you believe we’re back again at tax time?  As I slogged through my own piles of forms and receipts yesterday, I tried not to get frustrated at the complications of being a working actor during tax season: working several jobs, working in several states, working sporadically, working “under the table.”  All highly confusing when you try to fit your eccentric artistic life into countless small numbered boxes.  But it’s all part of the actor’s business.  Because you are, after all, running your own business (and if you don’t agree, the IRS does soooo…the bad news is you might have to pay taxes on your own actor business, but…it’s worth it!) and you’ve got to organize your life to accomodate that.

YOUR OFFICE:

Make sure you have your own space, whether at a desk, a table, or box, whatever, where you can store all your supplies for your business.  This means a computer, a printer with plenty of ink and paper, up-to-date Ross Reports (a monthly sort of Yellow Pages of all the agents, managers, tv shows and their addresses) your headshots, resumes, postcards, labels, manila envelopes for mailings, stapler, hole punch, and whatever else helps you run your office smoothly.  (All this is deductible, BTW.  I’ll get to that later!)

YOUR RECORDS:

Do yourself a HUGE favor, and keep excellent records.  (Easier said than done, right?)  The truth is, everyone is interconnected in this business, and you need to keep track of who you meet, when, where, and why.  I have a spreadsheet for myself for agents, managers, casting directors, and production contacts so I can keep everyone I meet straight.  We’ll start with setting up a spreadsheet for agents.  Make a list of agents you want to target, and agents you have already met.  Put columns for their name, address, who they work with, who their other clients are, what they like/dislike, and who you know who knows them.  Also keep track of when and how you get in contact with them.  I know it’s a pain, but it’ll keep you on your toes and keep you focused on your goals.  Do this for all your industry contacts (including all the people you meet on set or in rehearsal, all your castmates and co-actors, all your directors, stage managers, DP’s, sound designers…it will all come in handy, I promise).

YOUR DEDUCTIONS:

Sounds like a lot of work, right?  Being an organized actor has one giant benefit…deductions!  And that’s where actors really shine…

In case you don’t know, you as an artist have a whole lot to deduct, which is why (if you aren’t already) you should be saving all your receipts.  Not only can you deduct things like union dues or initiation fees (Can you say $1300 just to join AFTRA?) but also membership fees to join acting networking groups, fees for trade publications (like Backstage or the Ross Reports) and research.  (This is my favorite.)  “What qualifies as research?”  you might ask.  All kinds of things!  Plays, books about acting, books for actors, etc. BUT research also includes things like going to the movies, watching television,  or seeing plays!  You’ve got to keep up with your industry, right?  So make sure you keep all those receipts, and, if you’re extra smart, you’ll also keep a log or journal of each movie/play you see and how it proved to be educational to your needs as an artist.

That’s not all, oh no, not by a long shot!  You know all those times you grab coffee with other actor friends to discuss the biz?  Deductible.  Have you ever taken out a director friend to dinner to pick his brain about auditions?  Deductible.  Ever taken the bus to an audition?  Deductible!  Ever traveled out of town for a job and bought groceries/fuel/meals?  DEDUCTIBLE!  Amazing.  It’s pretty great being an actor, isn’t it?

I know that taxes are due on April 15th, so this might not change anything for you this year.  But now you know!  Save those receipts, and save yourself some money.  so it’s totally right and fair that you deduct your expenses.

Well, that’s it for today!  Good luck, and I’ll see you at the office supply store…(All deductible, remember!  Organizational tools are deductible!)

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