These Items Are Not Deductible

Because of the amount of misinformation that is so readily available on the street, I make it a point to be very clear about items that are not deductible for performers simply because of their profession. That's not to say the sky is the limit on anything else you may want to write off, but the expenses covered in this column seem to provide the most routine areas of abuse.

Perhaps the biggest area of concern is when women try to deduct the costs of hair, makeup, and nails on their returns. Unless you can tie the expense directly to a job, it will get tossed if the IRS chooses to audit your return. Don't try the argument that you have to match your look to the one in your headshots, because the auditor will probably suggest you go re-shoot them. I know actors like to claim they have to pay more for these beautification costs because it is their job to look good, but try to convince every "civilian" woman in business who dresses well and is concerned about her professional appearance that you are entitled to these deductions while they aren't.

That said, if you can prove an expense was the result of a job, then the costs may be allowed. I know of one young lady who was allowed a facial treatment because she had been forced to wear excessive makeup for several days as a "Star Trek" alien. Another actor had syrupy goop poured over her head that forced the hairdressers to wash and re-style her hair for numerous takes. She too was allowed a deduction for a hair-treatment appointment. These exceptions allow a deduction directly connected to an acting job but not the maintenance of that look.

Any clothing that you can wear on the street gets another thumbs down. Unless it is specifically a costume and not regular clothing you just happen to wear in a play, don't bother to include it on your return. Common examples of this allowable expense might be a lab coat, a cop uniform, a clown outfit, or that gorilla costume in your closet.

Traffic tickets and moving violations, even if you are on your way to, or parking at, an audition, are not deductible. Sorry.

Unreimbursed medical expenses could be a valuable deduction, but not all medical costs are allowed. Plastic surgery, including nose jobs or breast augmentation, is not allowed.

There are always exceptions. Breast reconstruction after breast cancer mastectomy can be allowed. The exception to that might be if you make your living in the adult film industry or as a stripper. If your tips and level of income are directly proportional to your after-market proportions, you could argue that the enhancements are business expenses.

An eyelid lift allowing you to play 10 years younger is out. On the other hand, an eyelid lift because your lids are drooping over your lashes and impeding your vision is okay. A chemical peel—even when done in a dermatologist's office—is a nope; burning skin cancer off your face gets a yep.

But remember: You are only allowed the amount of your unreimbursed medical expenses that exceeds 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Unless you are a working stunt person, your gym membership and other physical training is not allowed, but taking classes for martial arts, fencing, and firearms when—and only when—you are signed to shoot a kickboxing-swordplay-gangster movie, hellz yeah.

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