The Top Five Tax Mistakes Actors Make

 Events, Our Personal Touch, Tips N Tricks  Comments Off on The Top Five Tax Mistakes Actors Make
Feb 262013
 

Hi Everyone,

Take a look at the following article, by Mark Bradley,  to see if YOU are making any of these mistakes when filing your tax return.

Mistake #5:  Bogus Tax Deductions

Actors are great talkers, and we love to spread rumors.  Unfortunately, sometimes the rumors that get spread around about tax deductions are just plain wrong.  Three immediately spring to mind.

First, I’ve heard some actors say, “Oh yeah, I deduct all my clothes.”  No can do.  The rule is that clothing is deductible only if it isn’t suitable for street wear.  If you bought a business suit and never wore it for anything but auditions and commercial shoots, it’s still not deductible, because you could wear it on the street.  The only exception to this rule is dance wear. You can wear it on the street, but it’s considered specialized work wear, like a nurse’s scrubs.  (Cleaning and maintenance of your clothes used on the job are always deductible.)

Second, unlike classes, health club dues aren’t deductible professional expenses.  If an agent or director told you to get in better shape, even for a specific role, a gym membership is still considered a personal expense.

Third, I was horrified to learn that a lot of actors were telling each other that they could deduct ALL their restaurant meals, as long as they talked about the business over dinner!  This is total, utter, absolute nonsense.  To be deductible, you must have a clear, current business relationship with the person you’re hosting and you must discuss a specific business opportunity, not just the business in general.  Even if at some time in the future, your dining partner may hire you for a job, going out for dinner with your friends is essentially social in nature and should not be deducted as business entertainment.

Mistake #4:  Missed deductions

The flip side of taking bogus deductions is missing legitimate ones. A couple of deductions that shouldn’t be overlooked are items for research and expenses that are deducted from paychecks.  Many items that would simply be entertainment for the general public are deductible by actors as ordinary and necessary professional expenses.  Books, movies, subscriptions, and so forth keep you up-to-date in the profession.  Theatre and movie tickets are also absolutely legitimate deductions as professional research, along with a reasonable portion of your cable bill.  And don’t overlook expenses that are deducted from paychecks.  Two that come to mind are Equity working dues and commissions withheld by agents.

Mistake #3:  Deducting business expenses on the wrong form

Most actors have two types of income:  employee income, reported to you on a W-2, and independent contractor income (self-employment), which may be reported on a Form 1099.  (If you got paid less than $600 by an employer, they don’t have to send a 1099, but you still have to report the income!)  Your self-employment income and expenses should be reported on Schedule C (or C-EZ), and employee business expenses on Form 2106 (or 2106-EZ).  Some folks have told me that their accountants deduct ALL their business expenses on Schedule C, even those employee expenses that aren’t attributable to 1099 work. I think that’s completely improper, and could be dangerous. Maybe those accountants figure they could bamboozle an IRS auditor, but I’d prefer to report expenses properly.

Mistake #2:  Forgetting about local transportation

A professional tax preparer friend of mine says that the most-overlooked business deduction is local trans- portation.  Be sure to record your car mileage, bus fares, parking, tolls, etc. for your local trips in pursuit of your career.  Transportation to job-seeking and career-building activities is always deductible.  These activities include actual auditions and interviews, but also meetings with your agent, trips for coaching and lessons, union meetings, and errands to photographers, studios and printers to get your head shots, demos, and résumés.  All these activities are ordinary and necessary expenses, and this is probably most of your mileage.  A singer probably wouldn’t forget to deduct the cost of voice lessons, but might overlook the cost of getting there.  This may be because you usually won’t have receipts for these local transportation costs.  And that leads us to:

The Number One mistake actors make about taxes:  Failure to keep good records

The best thing to do to maximize your tax refund is to keep good records of your activities.  This means that you should write everything down, and keep those records as you go along.  From the example above, when you go to an audition or interview, write down your car mileage and what you paid for parking, or make note of the fare for public transportation.  You won’t have receipts for these things, so contemporaneous records are essential.  You can’t just make things up at tax time!  I also heard an accountant point out that if you just guess, you’ll probably underestimate.  So keep accurate records.

The most credible records are written in your own hand, so I keep an old-fashioned paper date book.  If you prefer to keep track of things electronically, make a printout at least once a week and hand-sign and date it.

Remember — as a professional in our industry, YOU are a little business, and keeping accurate records is an important part of your job!

 

Mark Bradley has been acting on Twin Cities stages for more than 35 years, although he is now mostly known as “Katie Bradley’s dad.” For several years, Mark provided individual tax help to performers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, and also presented income tax seminars for actors, partnering with CPA Paul Mount. He is a graduate of the H&R Block tax course, maintains the Actor’s Tax Tips blog and authored The Actor’s Tax Guide.

 

Jul 022012
 

Happy 4th of July week everyone!

I thought I would take this holiday week to post a little something personal and let ya’ll get to know me and how I got here! Hope you enjoy it (and if you don’t – come back next week… we’ll try another topic then!).

So – My name is Suzanne Roberts. I am 1/2 of the team at Talent Poole and I am so thankful that I get to come to work everyday with Geanette and all of our talent. I couldn’t be happier!

As many in this business, I started out in theater – no, let’s rephrase that. I started out wanting to be Bernadette Peters. I went to the University of MN, Duluth to study Musical Theater and to become a STAR. Well, I learned very quickly that I worked very hard, but I wasn’t as competitive or as naturally talented at Bernadette – or even most of my class mates. So I switched my focus to stage management – now that’s where I became the STAR! I really excelled at organizing and scheduling and finding how all the pieces of the show fit together.

After I graduated from UMD, I spent a summer as a production coordinator intern at the Ordway. I worked on productions like Rent, Les Mis and Anything Goes. I also spent my time doing informational meetings with people in the biz around town and that is where I discovered tv/film production. I met with  a producer in the Yellow Tag Productions division at Best Buy and I wanted to know if my stage management skills could transfer into production. I asked her what she did on a typical day – and she said “why don’t you come work for me and you’ll see.” I spent the next few months as her assistant in the office and then I got a taste of being on set and I loved it. I  loved that everyday was different, that I would be doing wardrobe  prep one day and then planning a schedule the next and then on set or location the following. I became a freelance coordinator at the age of 21 and worked non-stop until I decided to move to NYC in the spring of 2005.

I had always dreamed on living in New York. I thought it was the best place in the whole wide world! I moved there without a job – but I interviewed non-stop for the first month at every production company, agency and casting office I could get to answer my call. Finally, I got a frantic call from a casting agency asking me to come in for an interview. They had just fired the last person they hired and their main agent was going on a 3 week vacation the next day… they needed help. NOW. I landed the job, mostly because they were desperate, but they asked me to stay because I was awesome! I became the background casting agent for 6 films and 1 major network show over the next 6 months – we worked on projects with Richard Gere, Jason Priestley,Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, Judy Greer, Tom Cavanagh, Hayden Christensen, and Ivan Reitman. We didn’t do any of our work electronically yet – so we just had piles of headshots all over the place. There was a stack of blond 20 year old women in the left hand corner of the room, the 40 year old men with grey hair were in the right corner. They were stacked to my knees… and we would spend our days flipping through pics and making calls. It was exhausting! After 6 months, I was worn out and I missed MN and my family. I was ready to come home.

After coming home from NY, I needed a break from production. I found a job that used all my organizational skills, but was still fun and creative. I became an event planner. I worked for several different companies over the next few years helping plan all types of events and meetings. But – I always found I missed production. I am so happy being back in the mix here at Talent Poole – I love working with actors and producers daily… this is my comfort zone!

As for me personally:  I like to laugh. A lot. I sing random songs throughout the day. I dance when I am happy or when we book a job. I can do a totally believable southern accent, mildly believable British accent and a terrible Russian accent – I love getting in the VO booth and being a goof ball! I am kinda girly, love the color pink, all things that sparkle and dark chocolate. I am terrible at telling jokes, but I love puns. I hate killing spiders (afraid of the karma or mass spider retribution), air conditioning (would rather it just be 70 and breezy), doing dishes and dust bunnies. I don’t believe that “everything happens for a reason” or there is some master plan written…. We have more control than we give ourselves credit for.  I have a passport that has never been stamped, but I am dying to go to Paris, Fiji, Italy and Australia.

So – there is a bit of history on your agent, Suzanne. Can’t wait to learn more about all of you! 🙂

Dive on in!

 Our Personal Touch  Comments Off on Dive on in!
Apr 042012
 

Hi Talent Poolers!

Welcome to our BLOG!

Geanette and Suzanne are starting this blog to chronicle our daily lives at Talent Poole and to give you an insight into the production world. We will be giving tips and tricks into the trade and sharing stories that can help you all get your bearings in this industry.

We love our business and want to share our experiences with you. We hope you enjoy our tales!