With tax time right around the corner, all those who try to make a living off of indie culture are once again left scrambling for our paperwork and wishing a hand stamp from the Doug Fir came with a receipt. To help minimize the panic, professional bookkeeper Leilani Rosa, CEO of the bookkeeping/professional services firm Blank Canvas, gives us all some financial tips, from W-9s to leather pants.
The term "punk rock bookkeeper" doesn't really make sense, but then again, there is no reason why it shouldn't. How did you come up with the concept behind Blank Canvas?
One day long, long ago, while traversing through the corporate world, I dreamed of starting up an operation of my own. I realized that taking care of the biz and doing the books for dynamic people and the artistic endeavors they wish to pursue would make the entire paper-shuffle experience more thrilling. Hence the birth of the Blank Canvas—a business services firm for creative working minds. I guess our motto would be "you spend your energy creating, and we'll do the dirty work." As far as the "punk rock" classification is concerned, I really don't like to be put in a box, however, we definitely rock out while we work.
Other than "keep your receipts," do you have any tips for local musicians trying to balance their books?
Be prepared and have your IRS W-9 forms ready for all the venues that require them before they'll dish out your well-earned, cold hard cash. Once again, keep all your receipts and track all that you spend on promoting and creating your art. If you are working on multiple ideas at once and want a way to track which project is most profitable, it is important to keep track of what is costing you the money and what is making you the money. Also, running your music or art career as a legal small business can actually help you reap more tax benefits in the long run, so you keep more for yourself and less for the "gov."
So if I'm in a band, can I write off music-related purchases such as guitars, amps, leather pants, etc.? You can't write off drug purchases, can you?
You can write off all related expenses you incur to run your artistic venture. The IRS rule for business deductions is that the expenses written off must be "ordinary and necessary." If those hot leather pants are your rock uniform and are "ordinary and necessary" to melt faces, then write them off. Some other deductions may include your automobile expense and mileage for your trusty band van, some of the meals and entertainment, and office supplies—including that trip to the copy place to make flyers! Other larger purchases, such as your amps are considered assets and can be depreciated over time or expensed all at once, depending on certain restrictions. Always keep in mind that there are some limitations and rules about the operation of a creative small business that are case-by-case specific, so do the research. And in reference to your drug purchases write-off, my answer would be, maybe as a prescription?
Leilani Rosa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org