The Model's Tax Return - What Can You ACTUALLY Claim?

The modelling world is sort of a grey area as far as the taxation system is concerned. There are no actual black and white rules for what you can or can not claim. It is all dependent on each individuals circumstances.

I have been personally in fear of June the 30th for years. Every financial year end I try to hide under a rock and put off doing my tax return for as long as I can, until it is absolutely necessary  for the pure reason that I just don't know what I can claim. I have had many accountants over the years and to be honest they haven't had a damn clue either! Even modelling agencies do not have a clear idea of what you should be keeping receipts for.

This year I was determined to fix it all. I extensively googled the subject to no avail and finally decided to consult with a properly qualified accountant. My world has for ever been changed and I feel as if my attitude towards some parts of the job have shifted.

I will share with you my findings!


[ Disclaimer: I am NOT a registered tax accountant or tax professional and so all these findings are simply a guide and general advice as to what you MIGHT be able to claim on your tax return. Each individuals circumstances are different and so your tax claim items may vary. The information displayed below is based on my own experiences as a model doing my own tax return. I recommend that you meet with a registered tax accountant to discuss your individual tax return further. ]


 

Things you MAY be able to claim:

  • Commission - The % payment that you make to your agency from your payment from the client. In Australia this is about 20% +/- .
    "You can claim a deduction for commissions paid to theatrical agents." - ATO*
  • Special Wardrobe - You may be able to claim your uniform, for models this is : nude underwear, nude bra, black underwear & black bra. Or any other items requested for a specific job.
    Example. The client at a runway show requests that you must bring black strappy heels to wear for the said show.
  • Research - You may be able to claim a % of your expenses for internet and magazines on the basis of them being for research.
    To support this it may help to keep an "inspiration scrapbook" - cut and paste photos of photos and write a date, source and comment/note next to them explaining the inspiration taken from the image.
    Example. This is an image from the editorial on fashiongonerogue.com, 12.03.2016, I like the drama conveyed in her expression.
  • Phone - You may be able to claim some of your phone bills. This depends on the % used for communicating with clients, agencies and other aspects of your modelling career. This may include phone calls, internet usage and emails, social media etc...
  • Social media costs - You might be entitled to claiming costs associated with social media. 
    "You can claim a deduction for the cost of maintaining a photographic portfolio for publicity purposes." - ATO*
    Example. If you pay a photographer to take photos for your instagram to help promote yourself. Then you may be able to claim the expenses.
  • iPad - If you use your iPad as a portfolio then you may be able to claim that.
  • Coaching/Training - If you pay for any classes to learn a skill directly associated with your job as a model than you might be able to claim those expenses. 
    "You can claim a deduction for the cost of classes taken to maintain existing specific skills or to obtain work-related specific skills. This is so even if the training is undertaken between engagements. You can claim a deduction for the cost of lessons to acquire specific skills for use in a particular role or performance." - ATO*
    Example. If you train in an acting workshop to assist you to act better whilst you are working on a photoshoot/TVC/other.
 

Things you probably can NOT claim:

  • Fitness - There are a very select types of jobs that may claim fitness expenses, and modelling does not tend to be one of them.
    " You cannot claim a deduction for the cost of maintaining general fitness or body shape." - ATO
    So please do not enrol in that expensive pilates class / personal trainer, just because you think you can claim it, because that may not be the case.
  •  Flights - Sorry to say this but there is a likelihood that you may not be able to claim any of your flights as this may be seen as an necessary transit cost. This applies to flights booked for a specific shoot and flights booked for a trip overseas on-stay.
  • Public transport / Taxis / Uber - Like flights this may also be seen as a necessary transit cost and therefore you may not be able to claim it. Sorry guys!
  • Wardrobe - Clothing, shoes, etc Anything that you wear to a casting is generally unclaimable.
    "You cannot claim a deduction for the cost of preparing for or attending auditions, as they are incurred in getting work rather than doing work." - ATO* 
  • Rent - Rent is classified as a normal living expense and so you most likely can not claim it. For this reason I suggest finding your own accommodation over staying in model apartments, if possible, to reduce costs.
  • Beauty & Grooming - You may not be able to claim most of your beauty products and/or appointments unless it has been specially requested for a paid job. General grooming and products may be classified as a private expense.
    "You cannot claim a deduction for the cost of hairdressing, make-up or facials that are private expenses not relating to your role or costume." - ATO*
    Example. A haircut is likely not claimable, but the manicure/spray tan/hair colour that you had to get for a specific job might be.
  • Food & Groceries - Sorry guys this is usually seen as a regular cost of living. The only food that may be claimable is food purchased at work, during paid overtime hours and you will probably need to be able to prove the overtime was paid. So this means overtime at a editorial or fixed rate  job (which is often unpaid) may not allow for a meal to be claimed.
  • Visas / travel expenses - Unfortunately these expenses may be seen as standard work and travel expenses and so are usually not claimable.

*ATO - Australian Taxation Office


General Tips for getting the most out of your tax return:

Keep ALL of your receipts, you CAN NOT claim for things that you do not have a receipt for.  Having some kind of filing system so you can keep your receipts in logical order is handy and may save you time when you are sorting out your return.

As well as receipts, print out emails for each job that requested something specific from you. If they wanted you to get a spray tan, some heels, or something else specific, then print of the written request for that. This may save you a lot of hassle in the future if you were to be audited or need proof for your reason behind a claim!

Keep a record of all of your outgoings and incomings. This is easily done in a digital spreadsheet or a logbook. This will also help you be more efficient at tax time.

Get a good accountant. Shop around for an accountant that best understands your work and circumstances of your job. They are trained professionals and they will have the best idea of exactly what you can or cannot claim. 

When you are working overseas it may be in your best interest at tax time to declare the amount that was paid to you AFTER commission and expenses (net) from earnings made OVERSEAS instead of the gross amount. 
(Although this means you will lose out on being able to claim the agencies commission. Consult your Tax Accountant to seek advice for which option suits your circumstances best.)
Example. If you earn $50k in America, and the agency takes 50% and then deducts $10k for expenses. Your net income would be $15k. 

P.S. If you are working overseas you will need to read this post about getting a Certificate Of Residency.

A model's tax return terms are likely most similar to that of a 'Performing Artist'.
You can read this page on the Australian Taxation Office's website for more information on what you may or may not be able to claim as a 'Performing Artist'.      <CLICK HERE>

 

 

[ Disclaimer: I am NOT a registered tax accountant or tax professional and so all these findings are simply a guide and general advice as to what you MIGHT be able to claim on your tax return. Each individuals circumstances are different and so your tax claim items may vary. The information displayed below is based on my own experiences as a model doing my own tax return. I recommend that you meet with a registered tax accountant to discuss your individual tax return further. ]


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Millicent xx