What implications does the new GOP tax bill have for working artists?
Today an opaque and as yet mostly unread GOP tax bill is hurtling towards the President’s desk. The media have mostly avoided a close look at the collective effects of the tax bill—the near-inevitable cuts to public services and national infrastructure that will affect all of us—and instead my feeds have been dripping for days with straightforward “ways to make the new tax bill work for you,” including a cynical guide to “hacking the tax plan” that promises to help you learn “ways to profit off the Republican tax bill.” A number of these pieces give the reader helpful hints on ways to turn themselves into business entities, as though setting up an LLC is something like getting a new set of business cards printed—do I go with a friendly diminutive like “Allie”, or the more formal “Alison”?—rather than a meaningful legal commitment with significant costs and responsibilities.
At the moment, it looks like artists’ abilities to end next year in the black will be tied up with one provision in particular: standardized deductions will double, but those who don’t file a Schedule C or set up a pass-through entity will lose the ability to deduct work-related expenses, a change that could hit performing artists especially hard. Musicians, dancers, and actors with steady gigs are often categorized as employees and receive W-2s; now it seems they’ll no longer be able to itemize and deduct expenses related to getting and doing those jobs, though most artists spend a significant proportion of their incomes on the costs of doing business (think: transportation costs; headshots; agents’ commissions; a dancer’s weekly supply of pointe shoes; that $19,000 tuba at the back of the orchestra and the extra $1,000 for the wheeled case its player needs to get it to work). Well, you might ask, why not just file a Schedule C? It’s not that easy, though.
It looks like artists’ abilities to end next year in the black will be tied up with one provision in particular: some artists may lose the ability to deduct work-related expenses.