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THE NEW TAX GUIDE FOR WRITERS, ARTISTS, PERFORMERS & OTHER CREATIVE PEOPLESelf-employment tax basics

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The New (5th Edition) Tax Guide forWriters, Artists, Performers & Other Creative People, by Peter Jason Riley, CPA is the only complete tax guide available specifically for the working artist. Now in its fifth edition, available January 2012 from Focus Publishing.

My goal in writing this book was to give the artist an overall understanding of the unique aspects of taxation for people in the arts. By reading the book and using my deduction checklists I want you to do a better job at collecting the data through the year and be better prepared to present your tax information to your income tax advisor. Real life examples illustrate the many situations an artist may encounter. By understanding your specific situation you will be better prepared to choose an appropriate income tax advisor.

Keep in mind that no matter how good your tax advisor is, YOU are the one who has to develop a basic understanding of your taxable income and what is deductible, so that you are saving the proper receipts and documentation for your tax return.

Four artist friends, whose professional lives illustrate many examples throughout the book, demonstrate the unique business and tax aspects of being in a creative endeavor. The reader walks through a full year of their activities as artists and the tax implications of their work.

Our four artists are:

  1. Liz Brushstroke - VisualArtist and College Professor. Liz is a tenured college professor but she also has an active life as an independent visual artist and is represented by a gallery in New York City and Dublin. Click here for Sample Tax Return.

  2. Ima Starr - Actor, model and writer. Ima is very busy as both actor and model. She is also a part-time singer and has even written a book. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Click here for Sample Tax Return.

  3. Sonny Phunky - Musician. Sonny is a freelance bass player and does some teaching on the side. He works both as an employee and as a contract player. Click here for Sample Tax Return.

  4. Guy Focal - Writer. Guy has a full-time magazine staff writer job but also has earnings writing freelance book reviews and articles for other publications, and he has published children’s books. Click here for Sample Tax Return.
The book contains the following chapters:
  1. Income
    • What type of income is it and Why? ~ Employee Wages vs. Contract Income
    • The mysteries of the W-2 revealed
    • In search of Form 1099
    • The joys of being self-employed
    • Estimated taxes


  2. What can I Deduct?
    • The Automobile
    • The Home Office
    • Equipment Purchases and Depreciation & Amortization of Recordings, Films & Books
    • Travel and Meal Expenses
    • Use of the IRS Per Diem rates
    • Entertainment Expenses
    • Substantiating your Deductions for Travel, Meals & Entertainment
    • The "QPA" ­ Qualified Performing Artist
    • The "Hobby Loss" Issue
    • Start-up Costs


  3. For Actors, Directors, Dancers and Other Show Biz Folks Only

  4. For Musicians and Singers Only

  5. For Visual Artists Only

  6. For Writers Only

  7. Setting Up a Business Entity
    • The Sole-Proprietorship
    • The Partnership
    • The Corporation
    • The Limited Liability Company
    • When and Which Entity Would the Artist Set Up?


  8. The Audit Process, Record Keeping and Your Taxpayer Rights
    • MSSP ­ The IRS Audit Training Manuals
    • Audit Etiquette
    • Record Keeping
    • Your Rights as a Taxpayer


  9. Choosing a Tax Advisor

  10. Tax Planning
    • Timing your Deductions
    • Retirement Planning

  11. In Closing

The reviews are in…here's what readers are saying:

  • "It does an excellent job of demystifying the tax world for people who tend to not be naturally analytical."

    - Read Jared Nathan Garrett's complete review as published in The Academic Author.

  • For too many years, CEOs, lawyers, lobbyists,  financiers, and other fat cats have tapped top tax advisers with insider tax tricks to drastically cut their tax bills—and soak everyone else. Peter J. Riley is the expert tax adviser for the rest of us. He levels the playing field for us writers, artists, actors, musicians, and other creative folks. Peter may not make you a millionaire, but he can make you think and calculate like one come tax time. He knows all the creative but legal tax strategies and secrets to reduce your tax burden so you can quickly get back to doing what you do best—with your money still in your pocket. Better yet, he explains all these strategies and secrets in plain, easy-to-grasp language that makes complete sense to the average, semi-numerate person like me. Reading Peter’s new tax book is almost your patriotic duty!

    - Mark Hoffman - Roots-music writer and co-author of “Moanin’ at Midnight: The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf” (www.howlinwolf.com)


  • Peter's book has been an enormously helpful tool for me. The ever-changing world of tax guidelines for artists confounds me, but the language Peter uses helps to simplify for those of us who are 'tax-challenged'. I can't imagine using any other source...well, except the man himself!

    - Natalie Brown, Equity actor 

  • This extremely helpful book has given me tools I was sorely lacking. Without Peter Jason Riley and his illuminating tax guide, I would be an anchorless ship on the high seas of finance!"

    - Andre Dubus III – Novelist


  • Peter Riley not only saved me thousands of dollars in tax payments, but he also saved each of my band members thousands.  He knows the ins and outs of entertainment tax law and we are all in a better place financially because of it!

    - Trevor Phipps – Songwriter & Lead Singer for Unearth


  • It is wonderful to have an accountant who understands the individual needs of creative people

    - Holly Black – Novelist


  • Peter Jason Riley is a master of his craft and has been an indispensable part of our music industry team for over a decade. Taxes don’t have to be as painful as dentistry anymore. Peter's approach will give peace of mind. It’s a must read for everyone! 

    - Anthony J. Resta - Musician & Record producer


  • Peter's knowledge and advice has saved me an immense amount of money and time.  He is the best out there for professionals in the arts!

    - John Relyea – Bass-Baritone Opera Singer


  • As a part-time writer in desperate need of tax assistance, I read Peter Riley's book in one breezing sitting. It was a great help in opening my eyes, full of little-known facts, figures, and even humor to help any contributor to the arts. Thank you, Peter!

    - Rick Coleman – Writer and biographer of Fats Domino


  • Peter Riley has done our band as well as our personal taxes for at least ten years and has been equal parts attentive, kind, dependable and cool.  (I mean, when do you ever get to say that about your accountant?)  Even if you don't earn much money, he'll make you feel like a million bucks.  Here's to our next ten years together!

    - Margo Hennebach, Mark Saunders and Mad Agnes


  • The New Tax Guide is an invaluable resource for anyone making a living in the arts.  Peter's advice is clear, easy to understand and a financial life-saver.

    - Elizabeth Moloney – Equity Stage Manager, NYC


  • As a writer and editor, numbers have never been my strong suit.  I owe a lot to Peter and his incredibly informative, accessible website — consequently (and thankfully), I don't owe as much at tax time.

    - Kara LaReau – Author & Book Editor


  • Peter Riley rescued my band and I from a complete financial meltdown, I would recommend him to anyone trying to make a living as a musician.

    - Buz Mcgrath – Guitarist for Unearth





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