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Warner, Hagerty introduce legislation to update performing artist tax credit

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U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) have introduced legislation to provide much-needed tax relief to working artists by updating the Qualified Performing Artist tax deduction, which allows certain performing artists to deduct the cost of expenses incurred in the course of their employment.

The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act would update the thresholds of the QPA deduction to ensure that more lower- and middle-income artists can benefit from the tax break.

The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act is endorsed by numerous organizations advocating for the rights of emerging artists, including the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, the Actors’ Equity Association, the Theatre Communications Group, the Recording Academy, and the Nashville Songwriters Association.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for performers and artists,” Sen. Warner said. “Even as widespread vaccinations allow venues to reopen, many actors, musicians and performing artists are still struggling to recover. I’m glad to be working on a bipartisan solution to help ease some of the burden on working artists during a very difficult time.”

“As a son of Tennessee and my state’s former Commissioner of Economic & Community Development, I appreciate how vital our entertainment sector is to both Tennessee’s rich culture and its economy,” Sen. Hagerty said. “I’m pleased to introduce and work on a bipartisan basis with Senator Warner on this important legislation that will help Tennessee’s creative industry and the performing artists who make it truly thrive. Under our legislation, lower- and middle-income performing artists from Mountain City to Memphis will get to keep much more of their hard-earned wages because it updates a Reagan-era tax deduction that helps artists account for the costs of work-related expenses and adjusts it for the damaging impacts of inflation.”

The Qualified Performing Artist tax deduction has not been updated since its inception in 1986 and is currently only available to those making less than $16,000 a year, meaning that very few artists qualify. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act will update and increase the income ceiling to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for married joint filers, allowing many more lower and middle-income performing artists to receive tax relief for work-related expenses.

A copy of the bill text can be found here. Companion legislation has been sponsored in the House of Representatives by Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL).

“I want to thank Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Bill Hagerty for drafting and introducing this important legislation. They are great champions of the creative professionals that keep our industry successful,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher. “We have been fighting for this legislation because it will allow working class entertainment and media professionals legitimate deductions so that they can retain more of their hard earned money during these most challenging times.”

“I am grateful for the leadership of Sens. Warner and Hagerty as they fight for tax fairness for performing artists while the industry is in a historic crisis,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “The overwhelming majority of Equity stage managers and actors are working-class people who work hard to make ends meet, and unlike other workers, they often have to spend 30 percent of their income on business expenses. Our producers can deduct their business expenses, and we should be able to do so too. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act will put more money in the pockets of working performers when they need it the most as we work toward recovery in the arts sector.”

“Ensuring union creative professionals can once again deduct work expenses is a top priority for DPE and our affiliated unions in the arts, entertainment, and media industries. We commend Sens. Warner and Hagerty for introducing this important legislation in the Senate, which will put money back in the hands of hard-working, middle class professionals,” said Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO President Jennifer Dorning.

“As the Senate Finance Committee moves to complete deliberations on its fiscal 2022 tax proposals, it should be noted that the more than 80,000 professional musicians of the American Federation Musicians have long used the Qualified Performing Arts Tax Parity Act provisions of the IRS code to recover usual and necessary expenses that employers in this industry have for decades refused to reimburse,” said AFM President Ray Hair. “Working musicians continue to struggle while recovering from the loss of a bulk of their live music performance income due to the COVID19 pandemic. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act is sensible legislation that we can all agree on.  It will restore these deductions and help musicians and other entertainment professionals recover from the ravages of the pandemic, which brought our industry to a screeching halt, while helping working artists and their families become whole again.”

“I commend Sens. Warner and Hagerty for joining Reps. Chu and Buchanan in putting aside partisanship to help thousands of middle class behind-the-scenes entertainment workers and creative professionals,” stated IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb. “The inability to deduct work expenses has been hurting our members long before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down our work and wiped out our wages. Now, with a full return to work in sight, Congress should pass this bill, establish tax fairness, and ensure our workers come back stronger than before.”

“Theatre Communications Group is pleased to endorse the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act, a tax correction sorely needed by performing artists, especially now, as their lives have been upended by COVID-19,” said Laurie Baskin, Director of Advocacy for Theatre Communications Group.

“RIAA strongly supports this bipartisan effort to make the tax code work for artists and musicians. This legislation will strengthen our music ecosystem and create new jobs and opportunities in touring, recording, and more – all while opening the door just a little wider for the next generation trying to break through. We applaud Sens. Warner and Hagerty for fighting for tax fairness for working artists and musicians,” said RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier.