Tax Deductions For The Cost Of Being An Artist

Just before Christmas there was an article about Actors’ Equity union pushing their members to contact Congressional representatives about passing Performing Artist Tax Parity Act (PATPA).  This law would allow more artists to take the Qualified Performing Artist (QPA) deduction which is an:

“….above-the-line” deduction for specific unreimbursed expenses. (Above-the-line deductions are those subtracted from overall gross income to calculate an individual’s adjusted gross income — meaning individuals do not get taxed on such expenses.)…

The current QPA stipulates that those with an adjusted gross income of $16,000 (before these specific deductions) are eligible — an amount that has been unchanged since the QPA was first implemented in 1986. PATPA would increase this threshold to $100,000 for single taxpayers and $200,000 for joint filers, rendering many more entertainment workers eligible for the deduction.

Experts estimate that entertainment professionals spend between 20 and 30 percent of their income on work expenses — from agent and manager fees to headshots, equipment and professional development.

This law would also help other performing artists who likewise incur many personal expenses in support of their professional career. Drew McManus created a website with great visuals that tracked these myriad costs for string instrument performers in 2017 so you know the costs have only gone up since then and may be greater or just as great for other musicians, dancers, etc.

As I was looking to see if other performing arts unions were encouraging people to write their legislators, I discovered this is an effort that has been underway since around 2019. However, since the current Congress is about to end, there is a push to get the legislation passed. If you are interested in writing a letter, you can do so via a the form here.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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