If you play harp and make some money doing it, the following list might help jog your memory as you tackle your taxes and take deductions!
Obligatory note: I am not an accountant. I am a harpist who does her own taxes. I’ve gathered the following info by reading many government publications and the instructions for various Federal forms and schedules. Some of items listed can only be deducted in part, or have specific restrictions. Make sure you read the instructions. Please let me know if you have additions to this list.
Forms You Might Have To File as a Professional Harpist
- Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
- Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business
- Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax
- Form 8829, Business Use of Your Home (If you have a dedicated room for your harps you can write that off on this form or use the simplified method. Did you know that you can also write off storage space? As long as it is an entire room or closet where you store CD inventory, your harp cart, or sheet music you can also include that in your square footage total.)
- Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization (if you purchased a harp this year)
Things to keep track of and write off on Schedule C
(I stuff all my receipts and invoices in an envelope marked “Taxes” and sort at the end of the year.)
- Mileage to and from gigs, lessons (where you’re the teacher), the post office, the bank, the store – as long as you’re going there for a reason which is harp-related
- Cost of physically producing a recording
- Cost of a new harp cover
- Cost of treats or beverages for a studio recital
- Fees for online wedding sites like Gigmasters or WeddingWire
- Web hosting fees, cost of a domain name, cost of submitting a cd to a distributer like CD Baby
- Parking costs for gigs and professional development activities
- Copyright fees
- Harp strings
- Cost of getting your harp regulated or repaired
- Padding for the inside of your vehicle
- Union dues
- Cost of an electronic tuner, tuning key, or stand light
- Cost of music notation software
- Cost of hiring a copywriter or editor
- Payments to other musicians
- Venue rentals fees
- Cost of a hotel for an overnight gig
- Meals on overnight gigs, or when traveling between gigs
- Website design/maintenance fees
- Amounts you paid others for recording sessions, workshops, photography, help selling your albums at a gig, etc.
- Depreciation of a pedal harp purchase (over a number of years)
- Insurance on your instruments
- Office supplies: postage related to your business, printer ink, printer paper, pens, pencils, erasers, batteries, whiteout, staples, prizes or stickers for your students
- Supplies for maintaining your studio or harp: cleaning rags, wire cutters, lightbulbs, paint
- Sheet music purchases
- Gifts for students
- Business card or post card printing costs
- Computer expenses
- Utilities such as the cost of an additional phone line (you can write off the percentage used for business)
- Furniture for your studio such as lamps, benches or even window blinds
the cost of apps you use for your business (tuning apps, metronome apps, mileage apps, etc.)
Other deductions, not on Schedule C
- Half of your self-employment tax from Schedule SE. You can write that off on Form 1040.
- If you purchase health insurance yourself you can write off the amount you spend on your premium, also on Form 1040.
Don’t forget to pay sales tax on any merchandise (such as albums and books) that you sell. Filing and paying your sales tax will probably take less than a couple hours if you keep track of your sales during the year. It is essential to record the number of sales, the price point of the items, and whether or not sales tax was included in that price point. Check with your own state for filing deadlines.
Professional harpist? You might enjoy reading Recording “Soirée”, about the process of recording one of my first studio albums.
Stephanie Claussen is a classically-trained harpist with over fifteen years of experience performing in Minneapolis & St. Paul. Her book of harp arrangements, Lights So Brilliant: Christmas Carols and Tunes for Solo Harp, is now available through Mel Bay.com.