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3 Tax Tips for Actors

3 Tax Tips for Actors from David Turrentine

by Adriana Trajkovski

David Turrentine does actors' taxes

As most actors know, the hardest part of this crazy biz is staying afloat financially while pursuing your career. These Tax Tips for Actors are here to help! Actors need to manage their money and find daytime gigs that have flexibility for auditioning/rehearsing.  One essential part of money management is understanding taxes; something that actors can find scary and often overlook.

In comes David Turrentine! Enrolled Agent and Chicago actor, who followed his bliss of crunching numbers after receiving an MFA in Acting from UCSD. Turrentine took advantage of V.I.T.A (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program) and began voluntarily doing other actors’ taxes. Years later, David turned his volunteer work into a business and has been thriving ever since.

It’s tax season again! So, we asked David to give us tax tips for actors. Need help breaking down contracts, right-offs, and everything in between? We’ve got you covered:)

When you call David for help, he’ll immediately direct you to his website to fill out the Artist’s Income Tax Organizer. This worksheet helps David determine if you have all the necessary information needed for him to assist you.

The #1 tip David has for you? Keep a record of everything!

“Take pictures on your phone or scan them. You don’t need to keep the physical receipt- you can keep track of that electronically.” If you have each piece David needs for the puzzle, he can report it in the best way for the biggest deduction. For your reference, here is a list of possible deductions that you can report.

Tip # 2: Keep track of your mileage!

As far as deductions go, David says the biggest mistake people make is that “nobody likes to keep track of the business mileage on their car. That can be one of the biggest deductions.” It might sound tedious, but according to David, “It’s not as hard as it used to be–we all carry mini-computers in our pockets now.” MileIQ is a great example of an app for tracking mileage. Need an app to help keep your expenses in order? Try Expensify or Concur.

Tip #3: Get a dedicated debit and/ or credit card 

As David says, another way to keep track of business expenses is to “get a dedicated credit or debit card to track business expenses so that [you] have a nice clean paper trail in case a return is examined.” This will save you the headache of having to look through each line item on your personal credit card statement to decipher what you can expense.

Since actors can’t always predicate how much income they will make each year or where it’s coming from, one thing that might catch them off-guard is owing taxes. (Dun dun dun!) David assures that if this happens to you, there are options. These options depend on your ability to pay and solutions vary case-by-case depending on very specific guidelines. You can arrange your installment agreements to pay your taxes over time. There is a process called ‘offer and compromise,’ which occurs when somebody settles with the IRS for less than they owe. David suggests that it’s wise to have someone in your corner if this ever comes up.

BONUS Tip: Health Insurance Advice

Although David’s expertise is not in healthcare, he was happy to give some advice to non-union actors on this ever stressful topic. Health insurance prices can be pretty steep, but he says there are ways to save money for your healthcare needs. One option is a health savings account where “they tie a high deductible health plan with that savings account and use that savings account to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses.” This way, your money is already set aside for you to pay for health services before your deductible kicks in.

If you enroll in the marketplace for insurance, you may qualify for what is called a “credit” to help cover your insurance costs, if they fall within certain income brackets. These credits are determined by what you enter on your application, based on your best guess of what you will make, which can be tricky if you are uncertain how much that will be (actor life). David says it’s never going to be exact, so “it is something that you need to monitor and sometimes go back to the marketplace during the year and update numbers to make sure that you are getting the appropriate credit.” If your income goes up, the safe bet would be to “set money aside to pay back the premium credit.” For now, we need to pay attention to potential changes in the ACA coming down the pike.

David is confident that “almost anybody who has 1099 income can benefit from taking deductions on their tax return.” If you feel overwhelmed by the process or want to make sure you are taking advantage of every deduction possible, don’t wait until the beginning of April to get help.  Though hiring a taxman might sound expensive, in the long run, you can actually end up saving money!