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Tax Tips

Posted Date: 11 February 2009 at 05:05:01PM

I am revising these tips after speaking with a sort of expert over the weekend about actors and tax. It seems the combination can become quite tricky considering many actors have full time or part time jobs on top of their acting work, which could include paid theatre work, TVC work, television series work, feature film work, income from teaching classes, etc, etc. Therefore, I believe it is in my greatest interest and yours to simply say  - take these tax tips with a grain of salt and get some expert advice if you have multiple streams of income and your situation is less than straight forward.

 

However, if you are a freelance actor who only has one stream of income from acting, then the below tips may be helpful.

 

If you are an actor who has representation...PLEASE don't assume that your agent is responsible for keeping track of your income, outgoings and lodging your income tax return. Your agent is there to look after your career and manage you as an artist NOT to be your accountant nor your financial adviser. If you need help managing your finances then you should hire someone specifically for that and leave your agent out of it. No matter what your career you should always be in control of your money. Do you think Donald Trump got where he is today by turning a blind eye to his financial situation and letting someone else deal with it? When you take control of your finances and become diligent and organised with your taxes you feel so much better about money and it frees you up to be more creative. If you know that your finances are a mess then that is always going to be at the back of your mind holding up your creative flow. Don't let money be a burden - take control of it now and feel better!

 

 

1. Register for an ABN

 

Anyone who does contract work and issues invoices for services rendered MUST register for an Australian Business Number (ABN) for tax purposes. Your ABN must be visible on any outgoing invoices. It is illegal not to have an ABN if you are doing paid work and invoicing for your services. Plus, it is doubtful that anyone will pay you if you don't have an ABN because they will be charged more than double the amount of tax if they don't have an ABN on file for you.

 

It's easy to get an ABN. You can register online via http://www.abr.gov.au/ABR_BC/ . All you need is your Tax File Number to register as a Sole Trader.

 

 

2. Invoicing and GST

 

When issuing invoices to employers include your full name, contact details and ABN at the top of the invoice, the date, hours worked and your fee, including any overtime (fee and overtime rates will be outlined in your deal memo and contract). You do not need to register for GST and you do not have to include it on your invoice if your annual income from acting is less than $50,000* per year.

 

If you are unsure who you should send your invoice to once you have wrapped a job, look at the deal memo or contract that was given to you before the shoot. Invoicing details will be listed and they will usually provide a job/reference number. Make sure you include this number on your invoice and, if sending via email, in the subject line of the email. If you are unsure, call the employer (usually the production company or ad agency) and ask to be put through to the accounts department.

 

 

3. Income Tax

 

If you are not registered for GST it is important that you deduct tax from any payments you receive as the result of an invoice. The first $6000 of your annual income is tax free, but you must deduct 15% tax for every dollar over $6000* and up to $34,000. $34,001 up to $80,000 incurs 30% tax. Also take into consideration the Medicare levy of 1.5%. Please note that these figures change at the beginning of each financial year so make sure you stay up to date by visiting the ATO website www.ato.gov.au . If you do not deduct tax from each of your payments you could end up in debt to the ATO when it comes time to lodge your Income Tax Return. Stay organized and either put the money aside to pay in a lump sum at the end of the financial year or make regular payments to the ATO. You can learn how to do this by going to the ATO website or calling their customer care line.

 

 

4. Claims

 

It is also important that you keep any receipts that are related to your work as an actor ie. on location parking fees, petrol, tuition fees, acting books, etc. Keep all of your receipts in a safe place throughout the year so you can claim them when you lodge your tax return. The accountant who does your tax return will be able to tell you which receipts are claimable and which are not, but keep any that you are uncertain about just in case. You will need to keep them on file for 5 years from that particular financial year for proof in case of an audit.

 

 

This may seem like a lot to take in, but so many actors choose to ignore their tax situation and end up paying for it in the long run. Some thought and effort is all it takes now to save your self a major ‘tax headache' in the future. Plus, you'll be surprised at how much money you can actually get back from the government if you do it properly. It could mean your next trip overseas...LA anyone?

 

*NB figure likely to change depending on current financial year. Please double check all figures with ATO if uncertain.

 

 

 

 

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