Because we all have a tendency to forget the routine things we do every day, I constantly counsel my clients about the need to maintain records and keep track of their expenditures. If you've been busy trying to get work as an actor for the past year, you should have thousands of dollars' worth of receipts. All too often we spend money on something and neglect to remember the ancillary costs that come along with the central expense.
For example, let's take advertising. This could include photos, gifts, demos, postcards, or fliers for a showcase. If you mailed anything off to casting people, then there's the money you spent on the pictures (or whatever you sent), the envelope, and the printed résumé (paper and toner). However, you shouldn't forget what you paid for postage, as well as what you spent on the trip to the post office and the office supply store.
Presumably, you didn't walk to the photographer who shot your new headshots, and you probably met with him or her at least a couple of times—first to size him or her up, then to shoot the photos, and finally to go through the images or talk about retouching. Did you write down your mileage to the studio and back or your transportation costs for each visit? And don't forget to include any meetings you may have had with other photographers during your selection process. All of those visits are deductible as well. If you met with a photographer over coffee, then the bill can be included in your costs.
When you receive notice of an audition, it often arrives on your cell phone or through email. That allows a business deduction for the use of your phone and the Internet. Then there are the costs associated with the audition itself. How did you receive the sides? Did you have to pay to get them sent to you? Did you bring the scene to class or a coach to work on? Often coaches prefer to be paid in cash, but you should make sure you have some sort of record of the expense. Get a receipt.
Perhaps you were asked to wear a costume—not to be confused with anything you can wear on the street—to the audition. If you were told to "suggest" the role of a policeman, doctor, nurse, or such, there could be some costume expenses involved, because those are not street duds.
One of the most important things you can do is to make sure you keep a record of every audition. Aside from the above reasons, if you didn't book a lot of work last year, a record of your auditions becomes even more important, as it proves that you are still successfully taking the steps required to show a profit in this business.
Always make sure to write down your trips, auditions, meetings, classes—anything you do to pursue your career. Update the log every day and don't leave anything out. Get in the habit of taking a moment each night to note where you went throughout the day, as even tomorrow may be too late to remember what you did today.
As always, in the event that you are audited by the Internal Revenue Service, these daily details help substantiate your other deductions. The more detailed your records are, the better your chances of getting through an audit as painlessly as possible. But the additional benefit of keeping all your records is that it ensures that you aren't missing any deductible expenses out of laziness.
Better records make doing your taxes easier. By keeping good records, you are doing yourself a favor.