Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tax Time

5"x7" watercolor & colored pencil

It's tax time. Time to assess the damage my little hobby has caused over the year. I call my art a hobby because my accountant suggested it the last time I saw him. About 4 years ago, I thought, I'm going legit with this Art Career. I kept most of my receipts and when I went to the guy he gave me a list of lists of all the things that I could claim as a business. Well, the following year I did and came up as a loss. Of course. Look at all the things I was buying to keep the art careeer going: art fair fees, frames, brushes, a percentage of gas and repairs to the van, etc. Well, this went on for a couple of years and I have to admit that I am a better watercolor artist than a watercolor sales person because year after year.. loss loss loss. Then he suggested that I should call this a hobby. Because the IRS will start doing it and not let me itemize my deductions. At the time, I was insulted! How dare he, or better, the government, call my dream a hobby! It's a passion! A love -not a hobby.

But then this past week, the Canine Art Guild started talking about making your art your business. Tax id's, the laws that differ from state to state and all that. There's a user there who also runs and had this to say (which hit home with me):

"There is nothing magical with the word "business". So many artists feel that they must justify this somehow. It does not happen overnight and I have to constantly remind artists that it is hard work. It is a state of mind. Combining creativity and business is also a state of mind and you will be unsuccessful if you cannot switch gears to accept and embrace what needs to be done. Do you need a have or use a sales number in order to sell the occasional painting? No. But you sure do if your going to collect any sales tax on that painting. Sales tax is not included in your gross profit. You are temporarily holding it for the state. And often artists rush out and get a sales/tax number and they are surprised to find themselves paying a fine at some point because they had a month of no sales and forgot to send in a report (any way). Keep this whole thing in perspective. There is no need for an artist to "Justify" her expenses to anyone. Not her friends, not her spouse, not her relatives. Art is no more expensive than golf, video games, gardening, fishing, or any other hobby one chooses to have. Only in art does one's husband (and I see this with women ALL the time) say "You should sell this, Honey, and make some money!" Well, why doesn't he take his fish to the market and pay for the boat? Or his golf score last week on Ebay? You see my point. So relax. Only when you find your sales regular and "real"* should you even consider going the business route. Regardless of all the easy ways to sell your art that experts all over the Internet are selling or advertising, use plain old common sense. There is no such thing as an easy business. Art and business can be fun, excited and stimulating but only if you accept the mindset and your sales justify this decision. Now go have fun at your easel and don't be pressured into a premature decision."

*Although I have to ask, what is REAL sales vs. non-real sales?

So I will claim again this year my art as a hobby. I'm not upset, less paper work for me.

Incidentally all paintings on my website are up for sale. When was the last time you were there? :)

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