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How to Prepare for Tax Season as an Actor in 4 Simple Steps

Whether you are working with a Certified Personal Accountant (CPA) or going solo during tax season this year, you will need to have a preparation plan to help you file your taxes on time.

As an actor, filing your taxes tends to have more steps to it than someone with just one W-2 that can be filed quickly and easily.

That being said, tax time doesn’t have to feel overwhelming if you’re prepared! Here are four simple steps to prepare for tax season as an actor.

1. Create a Checklist for Your Paperwork

The amount of forms you may need to file may feel cumbersome, so making a checklist of everything you need before you actually file will help you make sure nothing gets forgotten. Here are a few things you may need to add to your checklist:

As an actor, you will most likely have earned income from multiple sources throughout the year, which means you will most likely be receiving multiple 1099-NECs from all those sources (1099-NECs are income statements for freelance/self-employed work that didn’t have taxes already taken out, which will need to be filed with your taxes).

If you have money in a high-yield savings account (HYSA) that is earning interest, you will have this form! Since the interest your money earns for you is considered income, you will need to file this form for all the HYSAs you have open (these forms will most likely have been emailed to you, but you can also find them on your bank’s website).

If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) and spent money from it during the past year, you will need to file this form which can be found on your HSA provider’s account page.

Investment Accounts
If you have any kind of retirement account open (IRA, 401k, 403b, etc.), any kind of investment account (Ellevest, Robinhood, etc.) or a Health Savings Account that you contributed to, you will need to download the tax forms inside of your account on their respective websites to file with your taxes.

2. Gather Your Deductions & Receipts

A tax deduction is an amount you can subtract from your overall income to lower the amount you owe in taxes (things like business expenses, charitable donations, insurance, etc.).

For example, if you made $50,000 in freelance income as an actor in 2023 and you claim $5,000 worth of deductions, that means you will only owe taxes on $45,000 worth of income rather than the full $50,000. If you are being taxed at 15%, this means you would be paying $6,750 in taxes instead of $7,500 by taking advantage of deductions.

To claim deductions on your taxes, you will need to have the receipts/proof that you purchased these things for business-related purposes.

You can gather these receipts inside of a Google Drive folder, a folder on your computer desktop or inside of an accounting software like Wave.

To understand what types of deductions you might be able to claim, here’s a list of the Top 4 Tax Deductions for Actors.

3. Schedule a Financial CEO Party

A Financial CEO Party is a scheduled time once a month for you to sit down with your money, manage it and build a relationship with it.

When it comes to taxes, it’s really easy to put filing them (or even thinking about them) on the back burner, so it’s key to schedule time into your calendar to make it happen.

For freelancers, artists, and small business owners, we usually do not have taxes taken out for us throughout the year via a W-2, which means you are normally not receiving a tax refund (you either owe at the end of the year or have been paying quarterly estimated taxes throughout the year). Since a refund is the main incentive for most people to not put off filing their taxes, you need to implement a different kind of incentive.

One of the main pillars of a successful Financial CEO Party (or money date) is that it needs to be FUN. This means that in addition to scheduling time into your calendar to do your taxes, you need to add in something that you will look forward to as well.

This could be as simple as making your favorite cup of tea and sitting by the window in your comfiest chair or taking yourself out to a swanky hotel bar downtown and ordering a bougie cocktail (as long as you have secure Wi-Fi, of course). It could even be as simple as buying yourself a treat afterward as a reward for finishing (like finally buying those LED bathtub lights that have been sitting in your Amazon cart forever).

4. Make a Plan for Next Year

Now that you’ve filed your taxes for this year (woohoo!), it’s time to put a plan in place to solve for any frustrations you may have experienced during this year’s tax season.

Having a hard time tracking down receipts for your business expenses? Add “receipt filing” as a to-do list item during your monthly Financial CEO Parties, where you upload pictures of the receipts on your phone into your Google Drive folder titled “tax receipts.”

Did you receive a 1099 you had forgotten about after you filed your taxes? Create a note on your phone with a running list of all the different companies you worked for throughout the year so your checklist is already there for you by the time next tax season hits.

Was your tax bill much higher than expected leaving you without enough cash in the bank to pay for it? Start putting aside 20% of your income into a savings account each month so you have the money waiting for you next year.

Were you overwhelmed by how complicated your taxes got this year? Start looking for a CPA now so you have a relationship built with them before they help you file next year. Start doing your research and book a few different sales calls with different accountants so you can feel out who would be the best fit. Give yourself time to go through this process!

At the end of the day, acting is still a business, which means doing things like taxes and bookkeeping is inevitable. The sooner you create a simple system to manage these things, the sooner you can get back to focusing on your art!

Implementing these four things to prepare for tax season this year will not only make filing your taxes easier, but will also allow you to gain financial confidence for all tax seasons in the future.

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Brooke Tyler Benson, Money Coach + AEA Actor, is the founder of Not Starving Artists. She is bringing financial education and empowerment to creatives to create a new generation of wealthy artists living lives of luxury and purpose (no budgeting or bi-weekly paycheck required). After graduating with a BFA in Acting, it became her mission to destroy the “starving artist” trope once and for all. She is your financial cheerleader, bringing you accessible money education and coaching specifically for creative freelancers and small business owners.