Did you know that California Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA27) and Floridia Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL16) have authored a bill that will allow performing artists to deduct money spent on union dues, travel to auditions, headshots, agency fees, training classes, management fees and other miscellaneous expenses from our taxable income? There has been a law since 1986 (called the QPA – Qualified Performing Artist tax deduction) that gave these deductions to performers up to an income limit of $16,000. Before this year, I was able to reclaim nearly all of the State and Federal Income Tax I paid during the year.
Sadly, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that went into effect in 2018 eliminated the ability to claim miscellaneous itemized deductions like our work expenses. As a result, performing artists (including me) we unable to reclaim hundreds or thousands of dollars of income tax deducted from our jobs. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act raised my taxes and the taxes of all Performing Artists. I was shocked when I paid my takes this year and received such a small State and Federal Income Tax return. That is the money I use to pay for travel to Hollywood Vibe Nationals, Buildabeast, and other summer intensives. This new law being proposed by Rep. Chu will correct the problem by updating the thresholds of the deduction allowing more low and middle-income artists to utilize it.
“Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you,” says Tony Robbins.
You never know the types of isolated events in your life that shape you, but three things have happened for me in the past year that have made me pay attention to something important for performing artists. I am sharing these experiences in hopes of awakening a spirt of positive change for dancers. If we work together, we can make a difference.
- This winter, I worked with my father to address the school district, state education board , and federal lawmakers (aka politicians) to fight for my right to attend public school and work as a dancer. We were successful at getting my absences for work excused.
- I am volunteering with the Choreographers Alliance to help them with marketing the mission to receive appropriate compensation and protection for their work. This will take time, but with your support Choreographers can get credit and residuals for their work in Advertising, Television and Film.
- I attended Girls State, a weeklong camp where students from across the State of California operated an emulation of our State Government. We learned how government works and how to start movements for positive change in our Nation.
The take away from all of this is that we – you and me – need to use our voices to fight for positive change. If a dozen or more instafamous performing artists took action to support this legislation to fix the tax bill, or gave shout outs to the Choreographers Alliance – change would happen. Use your social media following to change the world, not just to promote yourself.
What I Learned
Create Coalitions. One person may be able to have some influence, but many people together in a coalition creates a community voice. Put a hashtag or a link in your bio on social media and post from time to time about positive social change.
Can you imagine the impact if performing artists across the dance industry started supporting the @choreo_alliance on Instagram? It does not matter if you are a choreographer in SAG today – we know these choreographers, and need to show our love for them. They are building and maintaining bridges to opportunities that you may cross in your future. If SAG sees tens of thousands or millions of supporters for the Choreographers Alliance, they will act.
Step up and follow the @choreo_alliance and support them. At the very least, you will be supporting an effort to change an injustice for people you love. Who knows, you may also be laying a foundation to see your future work on a film or television listed in the credits, and receive residual payments for your art. Dancers get this level of credit today, but choreographers do not.
Legislators have open doors. My father was able to attend public meetings and set meetings legislators at every level. You simply walk into a council meeting and find out when the public comment period is – normally it is at the beginning of the meeting. You have 3 minutes to speak out. But more importantly, it’s an opportunity to see and be seen. After my father’s talks on the issues related to Artists in public schools and the disparity of treatment from Athletes, legislators wanted to meet with him to discuss remedies that were underway and receive feedback. Change can happen if you show up.
Did you know that Rep Judy Chu only has 4710 followers on Instagram. Her district is north and east of Burbank, CA, so as you can imagine, lots of performing artists live there. These are communities that are more affordable for dancers, yet still not too far of a commute for auditions or class. She has not posted about this law yet – don’t you think that she will work harder if a few thousand people follow her, DM her, and support her?
If we support Rep. Judy Chu with this law, these deductions will be returned for performing artists allowing deductions for those earning up to $100,000 in income. Even those making over $100,000 would be allowed to deduct the first $30,000 in expenses from their income. The suggested law is only one page – go read it! https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr3121/text That will make a difference of hundreds or thousands of dollars to help you pay rent, eat, and train between jobs.
What You can Do Right Now to Make A Difference
If you want to be a professional at anything, you need to recognize that you are part of an industry and participate in industry related groups like the Choreographers Alliance. Moreover, you need to be aware of the laws that pertain to our industry and take action to support legislation that is designed to help you! This is what Breaking Barriers taught by Liz Imperio is all about. What would it hurt? Do you think that you will lose followers if you ask them to help you fight for your fair rights as a performer?
Post your support for the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act with #PerformingArtistTaxParityAct
Follow @choreo_alliance – like and repost when you can.
Follow Rep. Judy Chu – message her your support and give her legislation a shout out (you can post the link to this if you want).