Tax write-offs for professional musicians
Professional musicians, working on a freelance basis, are sometimes considered independent contractors for tax purposes. The IRS describes an independent contractor as an individual who is in a business or trade that offers services to the general public, and who is in business for themselves. Some examples of people who are often designated as independent contractors include writers, contractors, orchestra members, and dentists.
With regard to filing taxes, freelance musicians who are considered independent contractors may be entitled to tax write-offs for assets and expenses. Violinists, flutists, cellists, violists, and other orchestral musicians who work on a job-by-job basis should educate themselves on tax laws. As independent contractors, the cost of their instruments, sheet music, travel to and from gigs, instrument maintenance, membership fees, and more may be deductible.
For purposes of clarity, we do not claim to be accountants for musicians and are not attempting to provide detailed tax advice. Our intent is merely to make you aware of the possibility that tax write-offs for musicians do exist. When it comes time to fill out your tax forms, it’s worth doing your research and consulting a professional when warranted.
Factors to consider
An independent contractor is entitled to deduct the costs of assets required for their work, which in this case includes musical instruments. In the year that you buy a new instrument, you may be entitled to a deduction and/or in following years, you may be able to deduct depreciation as the instrument (asset) loses value over time.
Like any other professional, a freelance musician incurs business expenses in the course of performing their work. If they are an independent contractor, these expenses may be deductible. Some examples of business expenses include the cost of recording time, instrument maintenance, marketing your band, and professional fees or dues.
The reality of life as a gig musician is that they often find themselves paying for equipment and expenses out of their own pocket. Even smaller purchases like instrument accessories can take a bite out of yearly earnings. Being able to use that instrument as a deduction could make a big difference.