How to Write Off Becoming an Actor on Your Taxes

In many ways, acting is a career without a safety net. Most professional actors live without the dependability and structure provided by 9-to-5 jobs, which makes for a great sense of independence throughout the year and a real headache during tax season. When it comes time to file, write-offs are the key to reducing the taxes you pay and ensuring the biggest possible return.

Things You'll Need

Mileage log
Form 1040, Schedule C
1099-MISC income forms

Home office deduction Form 8829
W-2 forms
Electronic tax preparation software (optional)

Save your receipts throughout the fiscal year. Underline purchases that relate to your acting career, and make detailed notes on the back of reach receipt if necessary. Divide your receipts into travel, automobile, equipment, home office and miscellaneous categories.

Record your vehicle's mileage when you travel to auditions or gigs during the year. As is the case with receipts, you may use this data when filing.

File your taxes as self-employed if you made most of your money as an actor during the fiscal year. Fill out a regular 1040 income tax form as a Schedule C, identifying yourself as your own business. Include any 1099-MISC forms you received to report self-employment income.

List write-offs -- any expenses you incurred relating to your career as a professional actor -- on the Schedule C expenses form. For actors, expenses can relate to performances, voice recording, guest appearances, auditions, teaching, directing, choreography and more.

Include travel and meal expenses related to your profession. Performers may deduct any job-related overnight travel, including personal meals, which are 50 percent deductible. Other travel-related expenses include dry cleaning, tips and business meals, such as meetings with agents, directors or other actors.

Deduct your automobile and vehicle expenses. You can use the standard mileage deduction to write off 51 cents per mile or add up the cost of gas, repairs, insurance and upkeep. For actors, the latter method is usually more lucrative.

Write off the purchase of expensive equipment related to your profession, such as the a new computer used for finding auditions online, auditioning via webcam and creating promotional materials. Include smaller expenses -- such as headshots and resume printing, dues, agency mailers and postage, photoshoots and acting books -- as supply expenses.

Fill out a home office deduction Form 8829 if you use a room or a significant portion of your home strictly for professional purposes, whether it be a rehearsal space, storage area or work desk. Today, many actors spend time at the office to complete electronic audition submissions, find work, network and create promotional materials. Include office-related costs such as rent, interest, real estate taxes and utilities.

Deduct other expenses such as makeup, wardrobe, tickets for plays, lessons, classes, and research materials. Don't forget the smaller write-offs like audition parking, hair cuts for a role, agency or management fees, website hosting costs, subscriptions to online services or professional magazines, and even the cost of printing sides for an audition.

Separate your write-offs if you received W-2 income, such as that earned from jobs with the Actors Equity association. File any write-offs from these jobs on Form 2106, Employee Business Expenses.

Tips & Warnings

Consider using electronic-filing software made for small businesses. Most of these programs lead you through deductions step-by-step, allowing you to avoid collecting individual forms and making detailed calculations.

Be honest. Don't claim unrealistic or unnecessary expenses, or you may face an audit from the Internal Revenue Service.