Yesterday I attended a course called “INCOME TAX FOR ARTIST” at LIAISON OF INDEPENDENT FILMMAKERS OF TORONTO(LIFT).
I really appreciated the instructor because instead of giving us a bunch of numbers, she taught us what is it means to be an artist. I’d love to share some of the information here. Before asking this question “How much do you know about tax as an artist?” You have to ask yourself another question first: “Am I willing to work as an independent artist/filmmaker?” Working as an artist is not just about creating; it is also about bookkeeping, selling and managing. Does this sound scary?
As a filmmaker, I once saw an article written by a famous director about what it means to be a filmmaker. As I recall, he described a director as being a psychoanalyst + hypnotist + poet+ magician + painter + dance choreographer and more. Now I’d like to add some other roles if you are a self employed filmmaker. Think about how many days you are actually shooting a film? Most of the time you are a producer and manager. You have to write your own proposal, talking with each client or distributors, or people who want to support your ideas. You have to learn how to write a grant, and then you wait for the money and spend all of it on your project.
Most importantly you have to make sure you use the money properly so that you won’t lose any money after each project. Yes, it is not easy. And I always feel like I need more time than 24 hours a day, plus a super intelligent brain. However, at the end, you will know if it is worth it once you see the final project. I do at least, and I am always very excited to look forward to a new idea and the next project. It is all about self-feeding and everyone is different. Find what you are really good at and find a way to work by using those skills. You will be happy!
Now let’s talk about something practical about tax. What I learned is that as a self-employed filmmaker I need to keep track of every penny I spend and every penny that I earn. The most important thing is to Keep All The Receipts! At the end of each day, put all the receipts in a pretty folder or bag that will make you happy to look at. Another really important fact is that you can write off many things as a self-employed artist. For example, if you work at home, you can write off half of the rent or even more. If you are a filmmaker, you can write off your equipment or rental fee or even some of your phone bills. To sum it up, ask yourself “what are the things you only do because of your business”? Then, when you are calculating the real cost of your business, make it reasonable. I am sure there are many things to research and experience as a self-employed artist, and progress is often tough. I am sure the more you know about yourself and your career, the better and easier it will become in the end. I hope I can provide more information in the future for all artists and filmmakers who work for what they love to do!
If you are interested in learning more about LIFT and Tax for artist, check links below.
LIFT Workshops 2015:
Instructor from ART BOOKS: