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November 21, 2017

The New Tax Bill Will Badly Hurt Musicians

New tax bill hurtsThe House passed a tax bill last week ostensibly to reduce the amount that the average person pays, but I think most Americans are looking at it as help for corporations and the wealthy and not so much for everyone else. According to the provisions of the bill, musicians would be especially hard hit. As if it wasn’t difficult enough to be in the music business already, Congress may be making it all that much tougher.

According to a great post in Finance For Musicians, a number of deductions that are normally a part of every musician’s tax return will not be allowed starting in 2018. These include:

  • Unreimbursed Employee Expenses
  • Union membership and work dues
  • Dues to professional societies
  • Home office expenses
  • Educator expenses and college research expenses
  • Travel, mileage, and meals for work
  • Required concert clothes

The first item, unreimbursed employee expenses, is the one that hits hardest. That pertains to all your gear if you’re a touring musician, employed by an orchestra, or generally employed to create music. If you’re like most musicians and engineers, you suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), which means that you’re constantly buying gear in the quest for the perfect sound. Sometimes you have to buy the gear because it’s required to get the gig. At least in days past you were able to write the costs off, but not going forward. The same goes for touring expenses.

Now before you freak out (I know, it’s hard not to), understand that this is just the House bill and it still must be approved by the Senate. The Senate, however, has it’s own ideas on what the tax bill should look like, and so far the two aren’t compatible. That doesn’t mean that they won’t get together on something that will pass in the future, but it’s uncertain that these oppressive provisions will be in the final legislation.

It’s still not a bad idea to call or write your Congressman or Senator (especially if he or she is Republican because that’s who for changing the current tax bill), and let them know how you feel. Your emails, letters and phone calls do matter, even if you don’t speak with the Congressman directly, so don’t be afraid to let your feelings be known.

Also, read the article for some tips on how to counter the tax plan should it eventually pass.

Thanks to my buddy J.J. Blair for the heads up on this.

[Graphic: 401(k) 2012]

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