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Thread: Deducting musical instrument on tax forms

  1. #11
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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

  2. #12
    This conversation reminds me of an episode of “Nathan For You” on Comedy Central, in which the host proposes marketing smoke detectors as a musical instrument to avoid the tariffs imposed on the import.
    Clayton M.
    Musician for Fun
    Euphonium Newbie - XO 1270S
    Trumpet Novice - XO 1602RS

  3. Quote Originally Posted by ann reid View Post
    Im going to look into purchasing an instrument and claiming it as a medical deduction. Ill post what I find out.
    Im ready to bet that there are some people who post here who could make a VERY legitimate claim.
    As a once-upon-a-time tax accountant, I'd be very surprised if you could find any legal claim to a medical deduction here. Not saying that a medical deduction should or shouldn't be permissible, but just that I don't think one is. I don't believe the IRC addresses it, and I would be shocked if there were any relevant regulations or rulings. Your best hope would be if there are any U.S. Tax Court decisions that provide judicial law on the matter. Our government isn't known for being particularly progressive in areas that only benefit the taxpayer.

    In real life, a tax attorney would probably tell you one of three things, depending on her/his own risk tolerance:

    1) Definitely don't, it's too risky! -or-
    2) Let's do it because I love me a good legal battle, -or-
    3) I don't feel great about it, but try it and see if you get audited.

    Personally, I would lean toward 1, but I might accept 3 if the client understands the risk and is willing to pay for litigative services.

    As it relates to income deductions, Dave and John are correct. Dave's caution about hobby loss rules is especially helpful. However, if you have a legitimate business (not a hobby), and you can therefore rightfully deduct related business expenses, you should consider whether you also qualify for home office (studio/practice area) deductions and/or deductions of travel expenses.

    As the kind of tax accountant who was always too ethical (read: black and white) to suit the attorneys (read: people who are paid to live in the gray area) I worked around, I'm gonna give +10 points to every hobbyist who correctly reports their performance-related income, however minimal it may be! (I need that hand-clap emoji for this.)
    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"

  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by lzajmom View Post
    ...As the kind of tax accountant who was always too ethical (read: black and white) to suit the attorneys (read: people who are paid to live in the gray area) I worked around, I'm gonna give +10 points to every hobbyist who correctly reports their performance-related income, however minimal it may be! (I need that hand-clap emoji for this.)
    That is where I am now, a few gigs, an orchestra that pays peanuts, a church gig now and then, etc. I file a Schedule C and claim "most" of what I get. I may miss one or two here or there, but try not to. All of this income is less than $1,000 (the orchestra is $600-$700 and I get a Form 1099 from them every year).

    So maybe I can get +8 or +9 points?
    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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    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
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  5. #15
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    This depreciation and tax stuff can be a deep dive. But it is starting to scratch another intellectual itch of mine. I was wondering how many musical people (using this forum as a sampling), are financial type people by day (or were before they retired).

    In the US, it is common to get "put in a box" based on what you do. Working in accounting/finance, or otherwise with numbers suggests you are of a particular personality type and temperament. And being musical or playing an instrument (or being involved with other performance arts), suggests another. The two are seen as being very far apart. Yet experience has shown me that people are multidimensional and often would fit in several boxes, if allowed. Which life does not give much opportunity for. Too out of the box that would be.

    So as not to turn this into a conversation about the possibility of making a living as a musician, or about the injustices of typifying/judging people based on a few outwardly presented characteristics, I would rather stick with the inquiry about how many of us on the forum are both financial/numbers people and musical people. But that may need to be a separate post topic all together (laugh).

    And the accountant side of me still wants to know about the tax treatment of musical instruments and musicians in countries other than the USA (more laughing)!

    - Sara
    Last edited by Sara Hood; 06-22-2019 at 10:24 PM.
    Baritone - 3 Valve, Compensating, JinBao JBBR1240

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by lzajmom View Post
    As a once-upon-a-time tax accountant, I'd be very surprised if you could find any legal claim to a medical deduction here. Not saying that a medical deduction should or shouldn't be permissible, but just that I don't think one is.
    Agreed. I wouldn't even try it without being able to display a prescription for it (similar to physical therapy).

    Also ... in reaction to an earlier comment ... beware of the "no one's come knocking at my door" argument. I'm very familiar with a case in my own family where no one came knocking at the door for 15 years -- and then they did (both federal and state). At that point the interest and penalties you're assessed will likely dwarf the original amount and you won't get anything like a sympathetic review of the case. But we all work on the basis of our own risk/benefit assessment.
    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)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Sara Hood View Post
    This depreciation and tax stuff can be a deep dive. But it is starting to scratch another intellectual itch of mine. I was wondering how many musical people (using this forum as a sampling), are financial type people by day (or were before they retired).

    In the US, it is common to get "put in a box" based on what you do. Working in accounting/finance, or otherwise with numbers suggests you are of a particular personality type and temperament. And being musical or playing an instrument (or being involved with other performance arts), suggests another. The two are seen as being very far apart. Yet experience has shown me that people are multidimensional and often would fit in several boxes, if allowed. Which life does not give much opportunity for. Too out of the box that would be....
    I am not an accounting/finance person, although I did have accounting in college. I majored in math (numbers), then a masters in computer science. Studies have shown that it is not unusual for a person to be both a mathematician and a musician . So a person can be a left brain type AND a right brain type (and survive!!). That is me, I guess. I suspect accounting/finance and music would be similar. I am very persnickety with numbers and finance (if my check book is off by 1 cent, I will spend hours finding the error; I always take the receipt at the pump - puzzled why many others don't; can add and subtract entries in my check book faster than is humanely possible; am a constant counter of things; etc.). And then I am creative with music, love music, am emotionally involved with music, and on and on. So, these two types of brains, left and right, can coexist, and do, because that is pretty much me, and I suspect many others.
    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)

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sara Hood View Post
    This depreciation and tax stuff can be a deep dive. But it is starting to scratch another intellectual itch of mine. I was wondering how many musical people (using this forum as a sampling), are financial type people by day (or were before they retired).
    - Sara
    I'm not sure that there's a particularly strong correlation here, and in fact I suspect that there's not. However, if you look at anecdotal evidence, you do run into a number of "musical people" who are also "financial type people by day". But I think there may be a temptation to "over-intellectualize" this phenomenon and look for some deeper connection that isn't there. There may be an alternative, but much more mundane, reason for this apparent phenomenon.

    It's quite possible that there's nothing particularly esoteric involving brain function or cognitive abilities, but some things that are much more practical. And in several cases I know this to be the case (and you can even see this in recommendations that have been offered to students in this forum). I think that the reasons this financial/musical association exists (to the degree that it does) are simply practical.

    Going into one or another "financial area" as a career has a couple of major advantages. First, it's easy to do -- by which I mean that it's easy to get the requisite training either in a fairly intensive formal education program or in a less intensive way over time by collecting courses and certifications and degrees as you go. And no matter where you live, it's not very difficult to find quite adequate training/education opportunities that aren't particularly expensive. What you have to learn in order to be employable and successful is quite well-delmiited, and the requirements and techniques are well known. And you can find employment in several different types of companies (ranging from very large ones of almost any sort to small accounting firms, part-time work, or self-employment). So as a career path it provides a broad range of opportunities and a clear path to the goal. It's not like, say, biomechanical-engineering where the specific education requirements are more demanding, more rigid, and more expensive. And unlike many technology fields, going into a number of financial areas doesn't drop you onto a fast and intensive treadmill where not only are you working all the time, but you're constantly having to keep up with new technologies and methodologies that develop at a dizzying rate. This isn't an "intellectual" comparison of financial occupations with (just as an example) engineering occupations, but is a straightforward practical comparison of how you get there and how you stay there and the array of opportunities you have.

    I know probably a dozen or more people who've taken advantage of these features of work in the "financial" area and became "financial people". Some of these were, for example, military musicians who managed to get their financial training while still in the military, and others were women who originally got their financial training at a fairly young age, dropped out of the work force to raise families, and then 30 years later easily returned. I saw my mother do the same thing (in the early 1970s) in the area of underwriting in the insurance industry. There are just a lot of occupations you can't do that in. These very practical considerations are what make "financial occupations" so attractive (and possible) to a fairly broad set of people who, I don't think, necessarily share a lot of deep "intellectual" attributes.

    To some degree, you can see the same thing happening more recently in such areas as software support and other areas of "IT", or documentation -- not particularly the areas of software development (which has it's own kind of intense treadmill), but in the areas surrounding and supporting it.
    Last edited by ghmerrill; 06-24-2019 at 11:57 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)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Morgan View Post
    [snip]Studies have shown that it is not unusual for a person to be both a mathematician and a musician . So a person can be a left brain type AND a right brain type (and survive!!). That is me, I guess. I suspect accounting/finance and music would be similar. [snip]
    I was a math major in college - that was to be my backup profession to being a musician. Somewhere around calculus of several variables, I realized that I was not in the same league as some of my fellow math majors, who were destined for academic careers. So I wound up in law school and became a tax lawyer. I serve as treasurer of a local community orchestra, so I guess I eventually found some way to keep music in my life and support my family.
    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

  10. #20
    The recent posts here remind me of the fact that in computer programming you often find people with music backgrounds. I suppose vice versa would apply.

    In CT, the wife of one of the band guys was a music teacher. She was educated at Eastman and was also an excellent accompanist on piano (she studies that specifically). But in the mid-1970s she was recruited by one of the Hartford insurance companies to work for them in the computer department. They provided all training while they were paying her as an employee. They recognized that musicians' minds are very compatible with computer logic. After all, we are trained to respond to a symbolic language, which is a good start, but I think there is also a strong "math" connection in the brain as well.

    Then when I was looking for jobs in the Midwest, while still in the band in CT, I approached some of my music friends in the Midwest looking for technology contacts. Jerry Young, then at Eau Claire, pointed me to a few companies. One or more of them had actually come to the music school and recruited some folks out of the school. Same logic as the example above.
    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

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