Lower Your Taxable Income With Deductions! (Part 2)

Deductions are important. Keeping logs and receipts with detailed handwritten notes are a must to prove the educational value (read deduction-worthiness) to the IRS. This week we talk about actor-related expenses.

Business Miles vs. Expenses: You can deduct all miles driven in pursuit of work. You cannot deduct driving to work, unless you drive from one job to another in the same day. You will take either the standard mileage rate or a percentage of all car expenses (gas, repairs, and insurance). In both cases, you must keep track of your mileage. Keep a log. You can buy one at any office supply store. Everyone can take the DMV and parking costs. Track your medical and charity miles too. If you are in NYC, a percentage of your MetroCard costs and specific taxi receipts are deductible as well.

Business Use of Cell Phone, Internet, and Cable: Your primary phone is not deductible. If you only have a cell phone, be aware the IRS has the right to turn down those expenses unless you can provide a second phone line. Then you take the business percentage of your real cell-phone bill. Business percentage also applies to your Internet and cable TV costs. Keep a viewing log to justify your TV expense. It should have notes like "2-10-11 - 'Blue Bloods' - Tom Selleck writer-producer - many roles for me."

Theater Tickets, Netflix, Movies: Again, keep a log of your tickets or program with notes showing watching a movie or a play is a business-related educational experience.

Agent Commissions: Your agent should be able to give you the total amount of commissions paid; if not, you will have to go through your check stubs and total them yourself. You should do this anyway, to be sure that you've received all of your W-2s and 1099s and that they are accurate.

Theater Companies, Online Submissions: Posting your headshots with companies such as Actors Access, Casting Networks, and our own Back Stage, for online auditions/submissions, is a necessary expenditure and therefore allowable.

Professional Costumes: Did you have to buy a vintage suit, or a woodland-fairy costume, for an acting gig? Deductible. A hoodie with the swoosh logo for that Nike audition? Not deductible, because you can wear it on the street. Same rule applies to cleaning and maintenance; only for costumes, not street wear.

Makeup, Hair, and Nails: If you had to get a military buzzcut for a role and then decided to keep it, the initial charge is deductible, but maintenance is not. "But I have to match my headshots" won't fly in an audit. Professional makeup must be purchased at a professional beauty supply store. If you are told to get a manicure for the Folgers commercial you're shooting - deductible. Maintaining your neat nails - not.

Acting, Voice, or Dance Class: These classes clearly increase your hireability as a performer, but any other class must relate to a specific gig that you have booked.

Union Dues: Professional union dues are deductible.

Travel for Work: If your family lives in Minneapolis and you visit Minneapolis the last week of November, your expenses are not deductible, unless you can prove that the purpose of the trip was to interview with talent agents at the beginning and end of the trip and educational viewing at the Guthrie, Mixed Blood, and Dudley Riggs theaters. Remember to keep receipts for taxis, trains, rental cars, and Metro passes.

One Final Piece of Advice: Get a shoebox, keep every receipt. Spend a couple days tallying them, and you can earn a tidy sum off your taxes, maybe even a refund. Go to www.ChuckSloan.com and download the Performer Tax Packet for worksheets to help you with this process.