Guide To Business Expenses For Self-Employed Actors And Performers
by Bambridge Accountants, posted 12 August 2015
Since acting is classified as a business there are certain expenses, many of which are unique to actors and performers, which you are allowed to offset against any income you will earn in a given tax year.
The law states that all expenses claimed must be “wholly and exclusively incurred for the purpose of the trade” but what does that really mean? and what happens if the expenditure has a dual purpose? (i.e. it is used for both business and personal use) We appreciate it can be confusing to understand what you can and cannot claim and so we have put together a guide (below) to help you.
Agent and booking fees If you use an agent to get work they will likely charge you a fee or commission but all costs associated with this are an allowable expense. Depending on your VAT status any VAT charged can also be reclaimed, or treated as a cost if you are not VAT registered.
Advertising, publicity and marketing Every actor needs to invest in self-marketing. Certain marketing costs including the costs of photography and headshots, voice over files or show reels can be claimed, as can the entrance fees for networking and actors expo events.
Trade membership and subscriptions Memberships to organisations such as Equity are deductible as are subscriptions for To Be Seen and other casting websites. Subscriptions to trade publications such as The Stage are also allowed.
Research It is understood actors often have to do a lot of research when taking on a new role or project therefore you are allowed to claim expenses for DVDs, CDs, books, play texts, and for research trips (e.g. to the theatre, shows and cinema) which are relevant to your work.
Training The costs of attending regular acting classes, workshops, voice coaching etc to maintain and update current skills can also be claimed back. What cannot be claimed is the costs of training for a completely new skill e.g. learning a new language unless it relevant for an acting role already acquired.
Costumes and props The cost of clothing and/or props purchased specifically for a role can be deducted. Where there is a duality of use (e.g. clothing purchased for auditions and rehearsals which you will also wear for non work purposes) the costs cannot be claimed. If you are reimbursed for the costs of any costumes/props the reimbursement must be declared as income.
The same applies for hairdressing and makeup; only costs which specifically relate to your work (e.g. a specific haircut for a role or stage makeup) can be claimed back.
Travel Most travel expenses incurred for acting and performance activities are deductible. This includes travel to and from auditions, rehearsals, research trips and performance venues. Travel by all modes of public transport (tube, trains, buses etc) is eligible. If you drive and you use you car for business purposes you can also claim car mileage. There are two ways you can claim this:
1. Claim against all business miles using HMRC fixed mileage rates (in 2015/16 the allowance is 45 pence per mile up to 10,000 miles and 25p per mile thereafter for cars, and 24 pence per mile for motorcycles). You can also claim for toll and congestion charges and parking.
2. Claiming business motor expenses calculated by keeping records of all business and private mileage and motoring expenses to apportion against your recorded expenditure.
Travel must only be claimed for business travel and does not include regular commuting (e.g. daily travel to a regular form of employment).
Travel costs for overseas work can also be claimed as well as accommodation (see accommodation section below).
Vehicle costs If you purchase a vehicle for your work you can claim for a portion of the purchase price and also for all associated costs such as serving, MOTs, insurance and vehicle tax.
If you hire a vehicle exclusively for a business related journey the costs are also deductible.
Accommodation If you are away from home for work (including filming on location, on tour or for auditions) accommodation charges are deductible. Be aware however that this does not pertain to accommodation for regular work and if you extend a trip for pleasure only the business portion may be claimed.
Food and drink The cost of food and drink is generally not deductible unless you are staying more than five miles away from home for business purposes whereby reasonable subsistence costs can be claimed. This only pertains to personal expenses, you cannot claim for others unless staff (see business entertainment below).
Business entertainment and gifts As a general rule, if you are entertaining anyone other than staff then expenses are not deductible as they are classified as entertainment.
Office costs If you hire an office or studio space for business activities then the rental costs and utility rates are deductible. This also extends to a portion of the costs of any computer equipment purchased for business e.g. researching roles, browsing for castings/auditions, updating your CV.
Phone costs The cost of calls and/or phone bills for business use can be claimed. If you have a phone purely for business then the total costs can be claimed. If the phone is also used for personal use only a proportion of the total costs can be claimed.
Working from home If you use your home for business purposes then a percentage of your household bills will be deductible. This includes mortgage/rental payments, utility bills, council tax, building and contents insurance, water rates and essential repairs/maintenance of the property but does not include redecorating.
Accounting and Book keeping fees If the above seems baffling then you may be pleased to know that the costs of hiring an accountant to complete your tax return and book keeping is also tax deductible. We leave the creative work to you so why don’t you leave your accounts to us?
Things to remember…
The above list of allowable expenses is not exhaustive and should only be used as a guide. Situations and tax rules can change year from year and so it is always advisable to consult an accountant or refer to the HMRC website for further guidance.
It is also very important to keep receipts for all expenses as evidence of the expenditure claimed.
If you have any questions about expenses, or you would like to arrange free phone call to discuss your accountancy and tax requirements please call us on 020 3757 9290 or email [email protected]
About Bambridge Accountants
Bambridge Accountants is an award winning chartered accountants based in Covent Garden which specialises in providing tax advice and accountancy services for the creative industries. We are delighted to offer To Be Seen members 25% discount on personal and company tax returns and are currently also offering a half-price offer on book keeping (£30 instead of £60/hour) until the end of September. To benefit from this offer please quote ‘To Be Seen’.