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Performing artist expenses A–F

Details on claiming performing artist expenses.

Last updated 2 June 2024

Agents fees

You can claim a deduction for commissions paid to your agent. If your employment contract allows for renegotiation, review or extending the contract, the costs of doing so will be an allowable deduction. These are expenses you incur in gaining your employment income.

You can't claim a deduction for upfront or joining fees paid to an agent or for the cost of engaging an agent to negotiate the terms and conditions of a new contract. This is because you incur the expenses before you start the employment.

Example: agent fees

Zahra is an actress and joins an acting agency to help further her career. She pays a setup fee as part of joining the agency. Zahra is offered a contract to be one of the leads in a TV series for one year with a mutual option to extend the contract. The show turns out to be a large success and her agency negotiates to extend the contract for another year.

Zahra can't claim the costs of joining the agency as it enables her to get work. She can claim the costs to renegotiate her contract as it is part of her employment activity.

End of example

Audition expenses

You can't claim a deduction for the cost of preparing for or attending auditions, as you incur these expenses in getting work rather than doing work.

Car expenses

You can't claim a car expenses deduction for normal trips between your home and regular place of work. These are private expenses, even if you:

  • live a long way from your usual or regular workplace
  • have to work outside normal business hours (for example, on the weekend or late in the evening).

In limited circumstances, you can claim the cost of trips between home and work, such as where you carry bulky tools or equipment for work or where you had shifting places of employment.

To be able to claim a deduction for the cost of trips between home and work while carrying bulky tools or equipment, all the following conditions must be met:

  • the tools or equipment are essential to perform your employment duties
  • the tools or equipment are bulky, meaning that
    • because of the size and weight, they are awkward to transport
    • they can only be transported conveniently using a motor vehicle
  • there is no secure storage for such items at the workplace.

It will not be sufficient if you transport the tools or equipment merely as a matter of choice. For example, if your employer provides reasonably secure storage, your decision to transport items home will be a matter of choice.

You are considered to have shifting places of work where you have no fixed place of work and you continually travel from one work site to another before returning home.

You can also claim a deduction for the cost of using a car you own, lease or hire (under a hire-purchase agreement) when you drive:

  • directly between separate jobs on the same day – for example, from your rehearsal for a musical production directly to your second job as a dance teacher
  • to and from an alternative workplace for the same employer on the same day – for example, travelling from a costume fitting directly to the commercial shoot.

You can't claim car expenses for a car you use under a salary sacrifice or novated lease arrangement. This is because it's usually your employer leasing the car from the financing company and making it available for your use. You can however claim additional work-related expenses you incur that are associated with your work use of the car such as parking and tolls.

To claim a deduction, you must keep records of your car use. You can choose between the logbook method or the cents per kilometre method to work out your deduction.

If you use the logbook method, you need to keep a valid logbook to help you work out the percentage of work-related use along with written evidence of your car expenses.

If you use the cents per kilometre method, you need to be able to show how you work out your work-related kilometres. You must be able to show that the kilometres travelled were work-related.

When you claim your work-related car expenses using one of the above methods, you can’t claim any further deductions in the same tax return for the same car. For example, petrol, servicing, and insurance costs. You must use the same method for all claims for the same car, even if the claims are for a different employment or business use.

To claim a deduction in your tax return, include the amount of your claim at Work-related car expenses. The Work-related car expenses calculator can help you work out the amount you can claim as a deduction.

You can’t use the cents per kilometre or logbook methods to work out your claim for a:

  • motorcycle
  • vehicle with a carrying capacity of one tonne or more (such as a ute)
  • vehicle that can transport 9 passengers or more (such as a minibus).

For these vehicles, you can claim the actual expenses you incur for your work-related travel. This includes costs such as fuel, oil, insurance, and loan interest along with the decline in value of the vehicle. You must keep receipts for all your expenses and records to show your work-related use of the vehicle. Although you are not required to keep a logbook, it is the easiest way to calculate you work-related use of the vehicle.

To claim a deduction for actual expenses you incur for a vehicle not defined as a car, include the amount at Work-related travel expenses.

Example: transporting equipment

Andre is a street performer and as part of his act he needs several items of equipment that are large and heavy. His employer doesn't supply a secure area at his workplace for his performance equipment, so he must transport his equipment between his home and work every day.

Andre can claim a deduction for the expenses he incurs to transport his equipment between his home and work because:

  • there is no secure place to store his equipment at his workplace
  • the equipment is bulky and because of its size and weight, it can only be conveniently transported using Andre's car
  • the equipment is essential to Andre's performance.
End of example

 

Example: storage is available

Jocelyn is a theatre director, and she requires large and bulky equipment to perform her role. Her employer provides a secure storage area to store her equipment. However, Jocelyn chooses to transport her equipment between home and work every day, instead of leaving them in the secure storage room provided.

Jocelyn can't claim a deduction for transporting her equipment between home and work as she has made a personal choice to transport her equipment. Her work has not created a practical need to transport bulky tools between home and work. Therefore, it is a private expense.

End of example

Child care

You can't claim a deduction for the cost of child care (including school holidays and before and after school care) when you're working. It's a private expense, and the expenses have no direct connection to earning your income.

Clothing and uniform expenses (including footwear)

With a few exceptions, clothing can't be deducted as a work-related expense.

Generally, you can't claim conventional clothing (including footwear) as a work-related expense, even if your employer requires you to wear it and you only wear these items of clothing at work.

'Conventional clothing' is everyday clothing worn by people regardless of their occupation – for example, evening wear worn by members of an orchestra or gym clothes worn by employee performing artists.

You may be able to claim a deduction for the cost of conventional clothing bought or hired as a costume for a particular role.

You can claim a deduction for costs you incur to buy, hire, repair or replace clothing, uniforms and footwear you wear at work if it's in one of the following categories:

  • protective – clothing that has protective features or functions that you wear to protect you from specific risks of injury or illness at work. For example, cleaning aprons, non-slip shoes or smocks worn to stop you coming into contact with harmful substance. Conventional clothes you wear at work are not regarded as protective clothing if they lack protective qualities designed for the risks of your work. This includes jeans, drill shirts, shorts, trousers, socks, closed shoes.
  • occupation-specific – clothing that distinctly identifies you as a person associated with a particular profession, trade or occupation. For example, a judge's robes or a chef's chequered pants. Items traditionally worn in a profession are not occupation-specific where the clothing is worn by multiple professions.
  • a compulsory uniform – clothing that your employer strictly and consistently enforces you wear by workplace agreement or policy and distinctly identifies either    
    • you as an employee working for a particular employer
    • the products or services your employer provides
  • a non-compulsory uniform – clothing that your employer registers on the Register of Approved Occupational Clothing and you wear the uniform at work.

You can’t claim a deduction if your employer buys, repairs or replaces your clothing.

Example: conventional clothing

Benjamin, a stage manager, has to wear a black shirt, black pants and black shoes when working. There's no employer logo on any of the items.

Benjamin can't claim the cost of buying these items, even though his employer requires him to wear a specific colour. They are not distinctive enough to make them part of a uniform and are still considered conventional clothes.

End of example

 

Example: occupation-specific clothing

Anna is a burlesque dancer and is required to buy and wear a costume with specific shoes when performing. Her employer doesn't reimburse her for any of these expenses.

Anna can claim the cost of buying the costume and shoes as they aren't conventional items that she would normally wear. These items are distinctive and relevant to her role as a burlesque dancer.

End of example

 

Example: conventional clothing

Cameron is a professional actor who buys clothing to wear on stage as a costume in a particular production. The clothing Cameron buys is conventional, but he only wears it as a costume when he is performing in the production. It also isn't the type of clothing that Cameron normally wears.

Cameron can claim a deduction for the clothing he buys. Even though the clothing Cameron buys to play the part is conventional clothing, it is directly related to performing his employment activities.

End of example

Coaching classes

You can claim a deduction for the cost of training to maintain existing skills or to acquire or improve related skills. For example, singing, acting or dancing lessons.

You can also claim a deduction for the cost of acquiring special skills required for a particular role.

Example: classes taken for a role

Geoff is an employee actor who obtains a part that requires him to play a professional tennis player. Geoff takes tennis lessons from a professional tennis coach to look proficient when playing the scenes.

Geoff can claim a deduction for the cost of the tennis lessons.

End of example

Drivers licence

You can't claim a deduction for the cost to get or renew your drivers licence, even if you must have it as a condition of employment. This is a private expense.

You can claim a deduction for additional costs you incur to get a special licence or condition on your licence to perform your work duties. For example, the cost you incur to get a heavy vehicle permit.

Example: special licence

Sanjay is a stunt double. Having a valid driver's licence is a condition of Sanjay's employment as stunt double. For a particular movie, Sanjay needs to be filmed driving a big rig at high speeds, so he applies for heavy vehicle permit.

Sanjay can claim a deduction for the cost of getting his heavy vehicle permit.

Sanjay can't claim a deduction for the cost of renewing his driver's licence each year.

End of example

Entertainment and social functions

You can't claim a deduction for the cost of any entertainment, fundraising or social functions. This applies even if they are compulsory, non-compulsory or you discuss work matters at the event.

Entertainment and social functions include the cost of:

  • work breakfasts, lunches or dinners
  • attendance at sporting events as a spectator
  • gala or social nights
  • concerts or dances
  • cocktail parties
  • other similar types of functions or events.

These are private expenses because these events do not have a direct connection to your income-producing activities.

You also can’t claim the cost of travelling to and from functions.

Example: entertainment costs

Rachael is a dancer and attends a social breakfast organised by a theatre company. These breakfasts are held every other month to encourage performing artists within the region to network.

Rachael can't claim a deduction for the cost of attending the breakfast, as these events do not have a direct connection to her income-producing activities as a dancer.

End of example

Fines and penalties

You can't claim a deduction for any fines or penalties you get when you travel to work or during work. Fines may include parking and speeding fines or penalties.

First aid courses

You can claim a deduction for the cost of first aid training courses if you are both:

  • a designated first aid person
  • need to complete a first aid training course to assist in emergency work situations.

You can’t claim a deduction if your employer pays for or reimburses you for the cost of the course.

Fitness expenses

You generally can’t claim gym and fitness expenses (such as skipping ropes, weights and other fitness equipment) even if you need to pass medical examinations and fitness tests to maintain your employment for your role. These are private expenses except in very limited circumstances.

You can claim a deduction in very limited circumstances, where your role requires you have an extremely high level of fitness. This will be the case where your role requires you to both:

  • maintain an extremely high level of fitness well above the general occupation standard
  • perform ongoing strenuous physical activities as an essential and regular part of your role.

For example, trapeze artists or tumblers working in a circus.

You can’t in any circumstances claim a deduction for expenses you incur to buy conventional clothing you use in the course of keeping fit. This includes tracksuits, running or aerobic shoes, socks, sporting shirts or shorts.

Example: deductible fitness expenses

Nola is a trapeze artist and tumbler with a circus. She has a gym membership and takes regular pilates and yoga classes. Nola's role requires her to train and rehearse with her company to develop new trapeze and tumbling routines and perform 6 nights a week.

Nola can claim her fitness costs. Her job is to rehearse and perform trapeze and tumbling acts for the circus which is a strenuous physical activity that is essential and regular part of her duties. Maintaining an extremely high level of physical fitness is essential to her job.

End of example

 

Example: deductible expense and private expense

Octavia is a professional ballerina and must maintain an extremely high level of fitness. To maintain her fitness, she buys a gym membership, gym clothing and trains daily. Octavia also rehearses with her company to develop new performances. Her job requires her to perform in theatres Thursday to Sunday most weeks.

Octavia can claim a deduction for her gym membership. Her job requires her to rehearse and perform regularly which is a strenuous physical activity that is essential and regular to her duties. However, Octavia can't claim a deduction for her gym clothes, as they are conventional clothing.

End of example

 

Example: private fitness expense

Alyce works as a show dance teacher on weekends. Alyce has a membership at a private gym and goes there three times a week to maintain her fitness.

Alyce can't claim the cost of gym fees as this is a private expense. While Alyce needs to keep a level of fitness for her employment, her role doesn't require strenuous physical activity as part of the performance of her duties.

End of example

For more performing artists expenses, see:

 

QC51260