Soprano Claire DiVizio's wide-ranging repertoire extends from Renaissance madrigals to contemporary opera and encompasses nearly everything in between. more
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April 15th is Just another Day - Tax Tips for Opera People

Ah, tax season… opera singers tend to dread it—and of course, I understand why. Primarily getting paid as a freelancer means the people paying you usually don’t take taxes out of your check, which can make for a complicated—and costly—April if you’re not prepared. And let’s face it, we’re never prepared.

I am here to share with you a few tips that will hopefully both save you some money and reduce your stress level. If you haven’t filed yet this year, there’s still time to take advantage of most of them, and if after having already filed your taxes you are drowning your sorrows in a vat of chocolate ice cream while screaming “WHY!? WHY??!!” over and over again, think about doing these next year.

  1. 1. If you make under $64,000 a year, you can file your taxes FOR FREE.

    There is a little-known partnership between the IRS and a few private tax preparation companies that allows you to file your taxes TOTALLY FREE, as long as you are under a certain income threshold. Links to these (I repeat) TOTALLY FREE versions of common personal accounting software are ONLY available through the IRS website, here:

    Click the big blue button that says “Start Free File now” to see the various softwares available for you to use, depending on your specific situation. I personally use the TurboTax option, which walks you through everything and has handy explanations of things that don’t immediately make sense to someone who isn’t an accountant.
  2. 2. Before you make yourself insane itemizing deductions, check this table:

    If you, like me, are unmarried and have no dependents, your standard deduction will be $6,300. While I could foresee a scenario in which a person might have more than $6,300 of personal deductions, I have not yet reached that benchmark.
  3. 3. If, unlike me, you actually make a decent amount of money from freelancing, set aside around 15% of each check AS YOU GET IT.

    Familiarize yourself with the tax brackets by looking at this chart:

    This is how much money the Federal Government will expect from you, not taking into account deductions, based on your income. Especially if you have a lot of independent contractor gigs with very few direct expenses, it will behoove you to set aside some of this money periodically throughout the year instead of having to come up with it all at once in the spring.

  4. 4. DO list all your audition trips/application fees/pianist fees/things you bought specifically for auditions under “Job-Seeking Expenses,” which is different than deductions against a specific 1099.

    This is pretty self-explanatory. Just do it.
  5. 5. If they don’t send you a form, don’t report it.

    There are a few reasons why someone might not send you a 1099. They include:

    • They paid you under $600 in the calendar year

    • They are your patron and are supporting your career informally

    • They/their organization falls under a very specific exemption that doesn’t require them to file IRS paperwork (unlikely; can apply to certain religious employment)

    • They are a mess*

    *In the interest of not getting audited, you should always check in with a company if they collected tax information from you, which indicates they probably plan to report paying you to the IRS. However, if you never filled out tax forms for them, forgive and forget!
In all of these cases, as long as the total of this income is less than the Annual Gift Tax Exclusion (which has been $14,000 for the last three years), there is no reason for you to report this income. If they didn’t send you a form, chances are they didn’t report paying you.

If you’re looking to conquer your fear of tax season, I’d recommend starting here. I promise you won’t die. And who knows… you might even get some money back!

Soprano Claire DiVizio's wide-ranging repertoire extends from Renaissance madrigals to contemporary opera and encompasses nearly everything in between. more
Thompson Street Opera Company was founded in 2011, based in a tiny studio apartment on Thompson Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Our first production, Ezra ... more