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Thread: Deducting musical instrument on tax forms

  1. #41
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    Mar 2017
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    Sacramento, CA area
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    It all depends on if you are using the instrument to make money, or just playing a horn for the fun of it. And then from there, if you are getting paid by the gig, or receiving a regular paycheck from a music making organization. Itemized deductions is another, separate issue, that has more to do with the individual person's tax situation, than whether a purchase can qualify for a deduction or not. Like it was said before, USA tax law is very complex. And two people with similar circumstances can be taxed very differently, depending on their individual details. So check in with a professional, if you plan on taking advantage of any of the information discussed in this thread. And for heaven's sake, be sure to keep your receipts and documentation for any calculations made, for at least seven years! Keeping records will help the IRS to take your case seriously. It can also help avoid having something you claimed thrown out and then penalized as frivolous or fraudulent.
    - Sara
    Baritone - 3 Valve, Compensating, JinBao JBBR1240

  2. jcirkoff and John are both right. Standard deduction did double last year, but that would only be applicable if you were deducting the cost as a medical expense (which is unlikely). Deducting a business expense is an apple, and the decision whether to itemize or take standard deduction is a big juicy orange.
    Wessex Dolce

    "Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things -- trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones." - Puddleglum in "The Silver Chair"

  3. #43
    Just for fun...
    Going back to our tangent discussion about music-brain/computer-brain similarities, I'll add a little anecdote. As I was watching the old quiz show "To Tell the Truth" there was a contestant who successfully bluffed the panel. As he revealed his true occupation he said he was the head of a computer company. Then he added he was a former member of the Count Basie Orchestra.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
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    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  4. #44
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    Speaking of lawyers, music, cabbages, and kings...Leonard Garment, famous for being Richard Nixon's head lawyer, was a tenor sax player who, IIRC, had brief stints with some name bands in the 40s. IIRC again, he crossed paths with Alan Greenspan on a couple of bandstands during that time, perhaps on Woody Herman's band.
    Yamaha 642-II Neo, Wedge 103A/Wick 4AL
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  5. On a tangent....does anyone here deduct their mileage for concerts with non-profit bands, which covers about 99% of all bands in existence?
    James Kircoff
    Genesee Wind Symphony - principal euphonium (Sterling Virtuoso 1065HS and Adams E1 Custom w/ Parker 4G Houser)
    Capital City Brass Band (2019 NABBA 2nd section champions) - 1st baritone (Besson BE956 w/ Denis Wick 6BY) and 10 piece ensemble (Getzen 1052FD w/ Bach 1G)

  6. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by jkircoff View Post
    On a tangent....does anyone here deduct their mileage for concerts with non-profit bands, which covers about 99% of all bands in existence?
    I don't see how. One can deduct driving (at a reduced rate) for charity, but I'm not sure how playing in a band is deductible. Anyone else?
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams E3, Denis Wick 4AL (classic)
    Instructor of Euphonium and Tuba
    Twitter: davewerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    YouTube: dwerden
    Owner of TubaEuph.com, DWerden.com

  7. #47
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    Sturgis, South Dakota
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    I know people who do deduct their mileage. A couple friends of mine come to mind, and they live a significant distance from the band they play in. If they are paid (which you can be in a non-profit band) and they treat this as business income, then there are things that you can deduct, mileage being one of them.

    Look at this article: https://financeformusicians.com/the-...ileage-part-1/

    Just one take on this, there are many more.
    Last edited by John Morgan; 07-08-2019 at 06:09 PM.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
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    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

  8. #48
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Sacramento, CA area
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    In years when I itemize my deductions, I take the mileage to practice as driving for charity. But then, the band is run through the church. I am one of the assistant leaders for the kids' band group. So it works on multiple levels, and I keep the number of miles low and reasonable.
    - Sara
    Baritone - 3 Valve, Compensating, JinBao JBBR1240

  9. #49
    Join Date
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    Central North Carolina
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    The last time I looked into this in detail, this kind of stuff just couldn't legally be done. It's similar to deducting for services to the organization that you might contribute as -- for example -- a software/IT professional. I looked into it when I put a huge amount of effort into building (from scratch) a band's web site and email infrastructure. You just can't do this, and IRS actually has some specific examples of what you can't do of precisely this sort. It doesn't matter if the organization is a 501c3 or not. And a 501c3 is not, ipso facto, a charity.

    More to the point these types of "contributions" you're talking about are NOT regarded by the IRS as qualifying charitable contributions. Various MATERIAL contributions to 501c3s and charities are deductible. But costs of your participation are not, and trying to treat a SERVICE (administrative, technical, etc.) as a contribution is not. This is very clear and explicit if you look at the details that the IRS provides. I think it's too bad, but I also understand the principles and motivation behind it on the part of the government.

    Just think about it for a moment: You're wanting to deduct some of your expenses for participating in a HOBBY! You can try to look at that in a variety of "creative" ways, but the IRS won't. Note that the (very good) link that John provides pertains to BUSINESS travel -- and not to travel for a hobby or for charitable "contributions". The IRS makes these distinctions very carefully. Basically, if you're a professional and a cost is part of the cost of your doing business, then you can deduct it. Otherwise not. And even this is looked at with some fine scrutiny -- in order, for example, to prohibit people from deducting things like their commuting and parking expenses, lunch costs, etc.

    Do some people deduct these things? Yes. Do they get away with it? Yes. Will they continue to get away with it? Probably. Is it cheating on your taxes? From EVERYTHING I've seen in the IRS regulations and examples, it is. Will they ever bother you for doing it? Probably not, unless you get audited and they decide to take the trouble over amounts that they'll likely regard as negligible. If this is a question about LEGALITY, I think the answer is clear (though a lot of people don't want to hear it). If it's a question about practicality and saving a few bucks where you're pretty sure you can get away with it, then "a lot of people do it" is probably the correct answer.
    Last edited by ghmerrill; 07-09-2019 at 07:02 AM.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
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    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  10. #50
    I used to do some contract work at a very large quasi-governmental institution. I am not a programmer, but have done a variety of related jobs in the realm of network engineering and cybersecurity. For this particular customer, their employees had a very rigid set of guidelines for what they were paid. Type of degree, what your degree is in, number of years of experience, reviews, etc. all played a factor. If you were a computer network architect (which is the role I had, although as a contractor rather than an employee this didn't apply to me) and had a bachelor's degree, the top level of pay could be obtained if your degree was in electrical engineering or music performance. The next level down applied to employees with computer science degrees! Crazy, right? But I guess they had some actuary who figured out that all the best network architects had music performance and electrical engineering degrees.

    I write off some of my musical instrument purchases and expenses but not all. I'm really careful not to run losses in consecutive years so as to avoid the hobby loss rules that snorlax mentioned. In a typical year, my music gig income is usually somewhere in the $10k to $15k range. But I have been known to spend many times that in new instrument purchases per year. One year I went a little bit crazy and bought almost $40k worth of instruments! So I usually write off the easy stuff - instrument insurance, lessons, etc. and then begin the depreciation of one or two instruments per year, but not necessarily all of them that I buy. Rarely it gets to the point where I actually start to tally up mileage to gigs and rehearsals, because I've usually exceeded the income by that point. The idea is to nullify the music income so I'm not paying taxes on that, but not show a loss that would affect my tax situation otherwise.
    --
    Barry

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