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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Sacramento, CA area
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    Deducting musical instrument on tax forms

    I was going through the blog posts and reading results from past survey questions. I ran into one that asked about whether forum members in the USA deduct their horns on their tax forms. I did not even know that was possible. So I am writing to re-open the topic and ask some questions about it.

    Is it possible to deduct a musical instrument when doing your taxes? How does one do that? Does it apply to any instrument and musician? As I thought about it, I can see how it might be possible. But it seemed to me that only a professional musician could pull it off. A horn and the supplies to keep it running could be seen as a work related expense for a professional. And work related expenses can be deductible under the right circumstances. Or maybe something under the terms of self employment costs, if one does gigs. Am I on the right track?

    And a little something for the forum members outside of the USA, if they cared to keep reading this post this far. Is anything like this permissible in countries outside of the USA? If so, what kind of tax breaks might you be able to get as a musician?

    I watch with interest to see where this goes. Learning something more, just by being a member of this forum. And loving it!

    - Sara
    Baritone - 3 Valve, Compensating, JinBao JBBR1240

  2. #2
    As far as I know, you could only deduct an instrument (depreciated) if it has some kind of business use, and if you file a Schedule C for your business. So if you do gigs and file a Schedule C, then you should be able to.
    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

  3. #3
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    Sturgis, South Dakota
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    Dave is correct. I have used the deduction in the past, when I was playing enough and making money from playing. But I sort of lost interest in keeping up with it, so I have discontinued taking the depreciation deduction. I still file a Schedule C every year, however, to cover the income I make from playing.
    Last edited by John Morgan; 06-20-2019 at 03:23 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
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    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)

  4. #4
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    Now you've done it (tease). You said "depreciation". You may not know it, but my day job is being an Accountant. So I know about depreciation. Now you have me wondering. How long of a "useful life" does the IRS allow for a musical instrument? How long the equipment (read "horn") is expected to last, is an important part of the depreciation calculation. And probably a question that has one answer for tax purposes and another answer in reality.
    - Sara
    Baritone - 3 Valve, Compensating, JinBao JBBR1240

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Sara Hood View Post
    Now you've done it (tease). You said "depreciation". You may not know it, but my day job is being an Accountant. So I know about depreciation. Now you have me wondering. How long of a "useful life" does the IRS allow for a musical instrument? How long the equipment (read "horn") is expected to last, is an important part of the depreciation calculation. And probably a question that has one answer for tax purposes and another answer in reality.
    - Sara
    You're above my head for any kind of authoritative answer! But I THOUGHT I recall hearing that I could pick either 10 years or 5 years.
    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

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
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    NYC metro area
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sara Hood View Post
    Now you've done it (tease). You said "depreciation". You may not know it, but my day job is being an Accountant. So I know about depreciation. Now you have me wondering. How long of a "useful life" does the IRS allow for a musical instrument? How long the equipment (read "horn") is expected to last, is an important part of the depreciation calculation. And probably a question that has one answer for tax purposes and another answer in reality.
    - Sara
    Excuse me for getting a little technical here.

    Sara, I think the musicians on this forum are only going to be concerned about tax depreciation, not the useful life for financial statement purposes (GAAP). The only time I can see a musician concerned with GAAP is if he or she has investors or a bank that has financed the instrument - such a situation arises with the investors who purchase Stradivarius string instruments or the like, and lease them to concert artists.

    For tax purposes, the recovery period is 7 years. It's not a straight line deduction; it's front loaded using a method called double declining balance. For the current year, the federal tax code has bonus depreciation - 100% deductible in the year of purchase - but most states do not conform to bonus depreciation for state income taxes. There's an alternative method that allows a 100% deduction that many states conform to called Section 179 expensing, but your expense cannot exceed your income net of all expenses other than Section 179. With regular depreciation, you can report a loss from your music business and still take depreciation. Business losses can offset other income, but there's a limit of $250,000 ($500,000 for married filing jointly). If the loss from your music business is more than that amount, consider getting a different job.

    To satisfy ethical requirements: this is general advice that may not apply to your situation. You should consult your own tax advisor.
    Dean L. Surkin
    Mack Brass MACK-EU1150S, BB1, Kadja, and DE 101XTG9 mouthpieces
    Bach 36B trombone; pBone; Vincent Bach (from 1971) 6.5AL mouthpiece
    Steinway 1902 Model A, restored by AC Pianocraft in 1988; Kawai MP8, Yamaha KX-76
    See my avatar: Jazz (the black cockapoo) and Delilah (the cavapoo puppy) keep me company while practicing

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Sacramento, CA area
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    Thank you for the "technical" explanation Dean. I follow what you are saying. I figured that there might be a difference between accounting's useful life and the IRS's useful life. That is why I said that the question probably had two answers. It is interesting that the IRS uses a 7 year recovery period.

    And now that I think about it more, I realize I should have known this. I do know this. I just never thought about applying it to musical instruments. It does basically boil down to a different treatment for professional musicians than for hobbyist/amateur musicians.

    It is so much fun to find where one part of my life (the professional part) touches another part of my life (the artistic and/or spiritual part), when I enjoy both. Thanks for the digression. I think that we kept it horn/music related enough to be relevant for the forum.

    Now all that's left is to wonder if other countries look at musical instruments and playing them the same way as the USA.
    - Sara
    Baritone - 3 Valve, Compensating, JinBao JBBR1240

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    US East coast
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    17
    I’m going to look into purchasing an instrument and claiming it as a medical deduction. I’ll post what I find out.
    I’m ready to bet that there are some people who post here who could make a VERY legitimate claim.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by ann reid View Post
    I’m going to look into purchasing an instrument and claiming it as a medical deduction. I’ll post what I find out.
    I’m ready to bet that there are some people who post here who could make a VERY legitimate claim.
    If you are comfortable answering... Are you thinking of a "comfort animal" type of need, or a physical therapy type of need? Either would be an interesting thing to pursue. Or maybe something else.

    Arthur Lehman may have built a foundation (informally) for the latter concept:

    http://www.dwerden.com/eu-articles-l...evelopment.cfm
    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

  10. #10
    I did this two years ago, and there were two options: 1) take the full amount in a single year, or 2) depreciate over 5 years. I chose the single year option. 90% of the music work I do is reported on a W2, so I didn't have to do anything extra with a schedule C, etc. So far, so good... I haven't been audited, and no one's come knocking at my door. That particular year I had bought two instruments, so it was about $10,000 that I claimed.

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