Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Artist Survival Kit Recap: What's a Write Off?

Last Thursday, nearly 30 artists gathered at the Mainsite Art Gallery in Norman for the “What’s a Write Off?” workshop as a part of the Artist Survival Kit program.

Although not always the most exciting or glamorous topic, in this busy tax season artists often have questions about filing taxes, record keeping, creating a business entity, etc. We also covered the basics of copyrights and trademarks.

Thanks to Chad Burris, a Tulsa attorney and founder of Tulsa Lawyers for the Arts, and Larry Anderson, CPA for speaking.

As a recap, here are a few good tips from the workshop:

Copyrights & Trademarks
Copyright owners possess these five exclusive rights:
-To reproduce their work.
-To prepare a derivative work based on their original work (like a sequel to a movie, etc).
-To distribute copies of their work.
-To perform their work publicly.
-To display their work publicly.

Even if you don’t put a copyright notice on a work, that doesn’t mean it isn’t protected! But, to be safe you should always include a notice. To protect yourself from infringement, it is best to officially register with the US Copyright Office.

You CAN NOT copyright the following:
-A composition so simple that it falls below the level of minimal creativity.
-Abstract ideas, methods, systems or facts.
-A style.
-Names, titles, short phrases or slogans.

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

Taxes & Record Keeping
-Could my home office or studio be deductible? How do I figure it out?
Yes! You can deduct the cost of operating a studio or office out of your home. However, the space you deduct must be used exclusively for your art business (i.e. can’t also serve as a guest bedroom or kitchen table). Take the square footage percentage of your home occupied by your art business and multiply by the overall cost of the home to get your business percentage.

-Could my vehicle be deductible since I use it for my art business?
Yes! But only during the times you are using it for your art business. You must keep written proof or a log of your business use. You can get a standard mileage rate for those miles or take the percentage of miles per year used for business and multiply by the actual cost of the vehicle for that year.

-Could my continuing education be deductible?
Yes! But, it must be required to improve or maintain your skills and must NOT be for a new profession. So, something like an ASK workshop likely would be a deductible expense!

Of course, this only scratches the surface but was a great introduction to the expansive topics.  We strongly recommend consulting a CPA or lawyer for advice on your specific questions. 

Join us this Saturday, February 27th at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond for the next ASK workshop, Extreme Makeover: Portfolio Edition.

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