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  • Writer's pictureBroadway Beat

You Are a Qualified Performing Artist Even if the IRS Doesn’t Think So

by Matt Keeley @reallymattkeeley

Hey buddy.

I know it's a tough thing to pursue your dreams. You’ve got to spend years taking classes, making connections, and perfecting your craft, and even then – so much of where you wind up is out of your control. And some days it might feel as if all your work has been for nothing. I'm here to say that's not the case.

Because the truth is that you are a qualified performing artist -- even if the IRS doesn’t think so.

This tax season, you may discover that you haven’t met the income threshold to be considered a professional actor by federal and/or state standards. That doesn’t make you any less of a worthy member of this creative field. So what if you weren’t able to perform services in the performing arts as an employee for at least two employers during the tax year? And then have received at least $200 in wages per employer? You’ve made it this far, and that’s amazing.

There are so many reasons not to discount all the work you’ve put in. Perhaps you’ve been consistently working for a company, but receiving nonemployee compensation. Maybe you’ve been able to land a ton of small roles but they can’t afford to pay more than a $100 stipend. Or lunch with copy and credit. Or you’re on an improv team. You can’t put that value on a tax return.

What really matters is that you’re doing what you love. And despite the endless rejections, disappointments, and extra documentation required for 1099 self-employment, you’re persisting. You’re called to entertain, to enlighten, to uplift. To hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature. You’re an actor, and no one can take that away from you.

But it’s probably safer not to write off those $600 headshots.


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