Spring is slowly (very slowly) approaching, but one of the dreaded moments for all of us is that little pain in our butts called tax season. Doing your taxes is tedious, confusing, and can vary wildly depending on if you are dancing on contract, freelancing, teaching. Once you get to that point in your career where you are no longer a student and can consider yourself a professional dancer, how do you navigate the waters of tax season?
I’m by no means an expert, however, this was brought to my attention recently and is a popular topic for discussion this time of year, so I thought it would be useful to go over what you should consider and some of the resources out there to help you.
- Get organized. Keep track of all your expenses and income in either a spreadsheet or document, depending on what works best for you. If you need, consider downloading and using an app like Mint. Here’s a guide to the recommended apps and services to help budget or get organized for tax season.
- If you weren’t in the habit in 2017, make this year the year you pick the habit up. You’ll thank yourself next year!
- Save EVERY receipt. This is one instance where leaving a paper trail is extremely helpful. When you file your taxes, you’ll need to show evidence of your expenses.
- Ask studios to print out records of the purchases you’ve made with all your receipts for the taxable year.
- If you don’t feel comfortable or have questions on your taxes, get help. There are a lot of free services available, and even if you choose not to go through an accountant, you can find free worksheets and guides online. Visit the IRS website for tax prep and for access to any worksheets you may need. And check out the free tax services available where you live. For instance, the New York Department of Taxation and Finance offers free prep and filing appointments.
- Take your time. Of course, you need to submit your paperwork on time, but this is not the occasion to be a speed demon. It is so important that you file honestly and correctly. This is also how you will learn about the process of filing your tax returns.
- Get familiar with the paperwork you will encounter: your W2, Schedule C, 1099 miscellaneous. Be aware if you have to file taxes in more than one state, and what the process for state level taxes vs federal are as each state may vary slightly.
- Deductions. As performing artists, we are in the unique position of having unusual expenses for the sake of our career. This means separating all your deductions into the appropriate categories.
- Financial Groove’s Checklist of Deductibles
- Possible expenses to write-off include photoshoots, travel expenses, classes, audition fees, commute, body conditioning, pointe shoes, subscription services like Backstage or Central Casting
- Go step by step, and one job at a time. If you work multiple jobs, complete the appropriate paperwork for each individually. For instance, a lot of dancers teach at multiple studios, have their survival job or jobs, and might have done multiple projects.
Tax Services for Dancers
- Financial Groove
- Based out of New York City and Vegas
- Founded by Jessica Scheitler, a Marymount Manhattan graduate
- Designed for performing artists
- Vasco Accounting
- Founded by Victo Sclafani, former photographer
- Based in New York City
Need more guidance or suggestions of who to turn to for assistance?
Check out these additional resources: