Tax Considerations

Tax Considerations

As an artist, your taxes will vary based on your discipline.  Please note that the following information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered professional tax advice or counsel. You should always consult a tax professional who will have deeper insight into your obligations for both your personal and work-related finances.

Before speaking with your tax professional you can use this guide to arm yourself with the proper information about the types of taxes that exist for small businesses and artist entrepreneurs. These definitions have been taken from Investopedia.

Property Tax

Property tax is associated with the property’s value. It takes into consideration the land, improvements on the land (such as building, remodeling, etc.) and personal property (moveable objects). Typically this tax occurs on an annual basis.

Income Tax

Income tax is associated with both personal income and the income of your business (if you registered your creative practice as a business entity). The tax is placed on any profits you make on your work, net gains, and any other type of income related to your work.

Sales Tax

A sales tax is placed on any goods or services that are associated with your work. This tax is sometimes referred to as the value added tax (VAT) and mainly applies to a small business. It is important to note that sales tax is typically regulated by the state, and may vary. For that reason, you should be aware of the sales tax charged for the market in which you sell your work.

Employee (Payroll)

If you employ other artists or individuals, you will need to consider the employee payroll tax. In reality, this is a tax that is comprised of two similar types of taxes. Employers are required to withhold a specific dollar amount from the employee wages to help contribute to social security and income taxes. In addition, the employer uses their own funds to pay their portion  of  contributions to the social security system on behalf of employees.

Employee (Self-Employment)

As an artist, you may have to contribute to the self-employment tax if you employ yourself for creating work and obtaining benefits from your work. If you have established your work as a business entity (sole proprietorship, contractor, partnership, or Limited Liability Company) you may be required to contribute to this tax.

Excise Tax

Often referred to as an indirect tax, excise tax is placed on a piece of work in addition to the sales tax. This tax focuses specifically on the creation of a piece of work with the intention that it will be sold. In simple terms, the artist will charge more for the piece than it cost to make. By pricing the work with the intention that he or she will recover the cost of the tax, you pass the tax burden onto the audience or consumer.

Tax Resources

There are several additional resources for taxes on the web. A few of them are Arts Tax Info, the Ohio Society of CPAsOhio Department of Taxation, Tax Form LibraryIRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center.


Grant Reporting

Grant Reporting

Grant reporting is a way that funders determine how grant funds were used throughout the year. Although grant reporting varies by funder, there are some simple ways to stay on top of the financial reporting process.

  • Read and understand what you will need to provide and the level of detail you’ll need to include before your reach the reporting period.
  • Save your receipts! Whether you store them in a shoe box or in a file folder, it’s best to hold onto any and all receipts that you have from purchases that you’ve made with grant money, particularly if you get audited.
  • Organize your receipts by date. This makes hunting down a specific receipt a lot easier.
  • Create an excel spreadsheet to keep track of your purchases. If the grant maker has a different method for tracking expenses, its best to stick with their method.


Savings Options

Savings Options

While you may be tempted to put your earned income into a jar or under the mattress, consider putting it to work for you instead. There are some great savings options available and based on how much you want to save and how accessible the funds need to be, this is a great way to actually earn some additional cash.

To help you compare savings options, check websites such as Bankrate.com or Yahoo! Finance for interest rates and fees.

Savings Accounts

A number of financial institutions offer many different types of savings accounts. Before selecting the one you want to put your hard-earned money into, ask a few questions:

  • Is there an annual fee?
  • Is there a minimum balance you must keep in the account?
  • What is the interest rate?
  • Is the account with the best interest rate available at a local branch?
  • What are the terms and conditions for withdrawing money from the account?

Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

If you don’t need immediate access to your funds you may want to consider a high interest CD. CD’s typically offer interest rates higher than savings accounts; however, they also require a minimum deposit. In addition, you must agree to leave the funds in the account for a specific period of time (three months, six months, one year, five years, etc.). In general, the longer the CD investment period the better interest rate you will receive, and there is often a penalty charged for early withdrawal. You should consider the CD’s auto-renew policy to determine if there is a short window of time to access your money before it enters into a new CD. Some banks may auto-renew funds into a CD with a lower interest rate than your best option based on changes in interest rates over the time of your initial deposit. If you invest funds over an extended period of time it is important that you stay up to date and regularly communicate with your account representative about the state of your funds.

Other Investment Options

There are a number of investment options for earning additional money on initial savings. While these may yield the highest rate of return, they are also typically the riskiest options. Some examples are mutual funds, bonds or money markets. For more information on investment options, visit some of the financial resources we have listed or consult a financial advisor.


Using Financial Ratios

Using Financial Ratios

Financial Ratios provide you with a quick and simple way of looking at your financial position. Composed of a few simple pieces of information and some math, these ratios may be useful when determining loan eligibility, protection against a financial crisis or your current debt ratio.

Ratio

What You’ll Need

When You Should Use It

Formula

Current Ratio Current Assets

Current Liabilities

Use this when you need to demonstrate your ability to quickly pay for your liabilities for the year. Creditors typically look for a higher percentage of assets. Current Assets/
Current Liabilities
Quick Ratio Cash

Accounts Receivable

Notes

Similar to the current ratio, use this to demonstrate your ability to quickly pay off or invest in something. This doesn’t include your inventory or the work you are planning to sell. In this case we are looking primarily at yourcurrent cash. (Current Assets -Inventory)/
Current Liabilities
Debt Ratio Total Debt Amount

Total Assets

This ratio focuses on your long-term debt (mortgages, student loans, etc). Lenders look for a smaller ratio when deciding on giving you a loan. Total Debt/ Total Assets
Gross Profit Margin Total Sales

Cost of Goods Sold

This ratio will demonstrate how much you made on the sale of your work after you figure in the costs associated with creating it. (Total Sales-Cost of Goods Sold) / Total Sales


Financial Management Tools

Financial Management Tools

Having some simple financial management tools can help you achieve greater control over your creative practice. The tools outlined here will help you to reflect on the money you currently have, how you are using your money, and how you could leverage your money in different ways.

Budget (Looking at the Future)

The budget or spending plan will assist you in managing your money. A budget is designed to estimate what you may spend over a period of time. To keep things simple start out with a monthly budget. Based on your income and expenses, you can estimate what you may receive and what you may spend in the next month. Although you may not be spot on your first month, your estimates should become more accurate as time goes on.

There are a number of ways to organize your budget. Putting together a basic document designating one column as the category, and the next, the amount budgeted for that category is a good way to start. Be sure to keep your categories fairly broad so that using this tool doesn’t become a burden. You may start with the categories you listed previously. Another way to think about your expense categories is to consider your reasons for the expense (in other words, is it for research and planning, development and creation or marketing and distribution?). If you are feeling tech-savvy, you might try using a program such as QuickBooks or Expensify to set up the budget. There are also many free options available including some great apps for your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Once you have created and finalized your budget, you can either keep it as a reference or use it as a working document. You may want to keep a tally of your actual expenses in a separate file and compare it against your budget. Alternately, you may update your budget as you spend more money in one category and less in another. Either way you should keep a copy of the original budget you developed for yourself. Use it as a building block and measurement tool for determining how close you came to your original goal.

Balance Sheet (A Snapshot)

Assets – Liabilities = Equity

A balance sheet, also known as a statement of position, allows you to see your current financial state in a very simple way. More or less, this sheet is a snapshot of your cash and other assets taken at asingle point in time.  This sheet first lists all of your current assets in total, including both the tangible (cash, supplies, structures, land, physical artworks, etc.) and intangible (copyrights, patents, brand name, contracts for commissions not yet realized, etc.). From that total you can subtract your liabilities or the debt that you owe on those assets.  By doing this you will see your equity, or how much you and/or any investors truly own of your current business assets

Cash Flow Statement (Your Transactions)

A cash flow statement is designed to allow you to see the amount of cash coming in from your work and the cash being expended.  Unlike the balance sheet, this statement takes a look at your financial transactionsover a period of time. It records your operating activities (profit from product/service sale, costs of shipping your work, etc.), your investment activities (mortgage payment, purchasing equipment or materials, etc.) and finance activities.

A cash flow statement calculates your ability to cover immediate expenses. With craft and visual arts businesses you may have incredible assets and equipment but payment for a finished work may come all at once. Likewise, a performing venue or recording studio may have cash tied up in rental space while its revenue stream is dependent on ticket sales, album sales or artist contracts. A cash flow statement can help you visualize, schedule and manage for this unsteady flow of finances no matter your discipline. In addition, potential lenders or investors may be very interested in reviewing this statement.


Understanding Your Current Finances

Understanding Your Current Finances

Income Statement

Having a clear picture about your current finances is the first step to better financial management. The best way to approach this is to create a few lists. These lists illustrate two financial streams. The first is your income, money that is coming to you over a period of time; the second is your expenses, money that you invest into your work or spend on living expenses.

Income

Whether you are currently supporting yourself through your work, a secondary job, or through another source, it is best to account for all income that you receive annually. You may need to average your annual income as seasonal factors may contribute to the amount of money you make throughout the year.  While the summer or holiday season may offer a host of festivals, performances or sales, your income may drop significantly during other times of the year. Calculate and average these ebbs and flows for your annual statement. You may already have an intuitive sense of this as you supplement the development of your work during off-seasons. Developing a more structured understanding of these trends will be helpful as you examine your expenses, debt repayment, professional development opportunities, and inventory.

Possible Income Categories

  • Annual revenue from your work. If you have different types of income from your work you may consider separating them into their own categories for example performances, profit from sales of your work, royalties, etc.
  • Annual revenue from teaching others about your craft such as workshops, presentations, programs, etc.
  • Annual salary or wages
  • Grants, fellowships, residencies, etc.
  • Additional income such as gifts, investments, etc.

Expenses

Begin by categorizing your annual expenses and separating work and personal expenditures. If you are not able to separate them completely, for instance, if your studio is in your home and you cannot delineate utility bills, consider instead adding a section for shared expenses.

Possible Annual Expense Categories

  • Contractors or professional services
  • Payments on debt (student loans, car loans, credit card etc.)
  • Education and training
  • Food and beverage
  • Insurance
  • Marketing and communications
  • Memberships, subscriptions and books
  • Postage and mailings
  • Retirement
  • Salaries and wages to and apprentice, employee or intern
  • Space (rent and/or mortgage payments and improvements or modifications)
  • Supplies and Equipment
  • Taxes and other government payments
  • Travel
  • Utilities
  • Other yearly expenses

Constructing Your Income Statement

By creating lists of your income and expenses you can start to see the structure of your income statement. This is a statement ofyour net profit or loss. To finalize this statement, total your income and expenses and apply the formula:

Income – Expenses = Net Profit/Net Loss

Additional Financial Streams

In addition to income and expenses, you should create two additional lists: one to outline all of your current savings (savings accounts, CD’s, investments, etc.), and for your total debt beyond your annual payments. This will give you a better overall picture of your current and long-term finances. By listing savings you will gain a better sense of the current cash that you have on hand and how accessible it may be. Understanding your total debt will show you how much of that available cash may be tied up proportionately. Use this information to set additional financial goals and to create a balance sheet.