Tax Deductions for a Child Performer

by Fraser Sherman

Even if your kid's not the next Shirley Temple or Justin Bieber, she may bring in enough money to owe taxes. As of 2013, if she earns more than $6,100, she's a taxpaying American, even if you have to handle the IRS paperwork. Fortunately, that taxable income as an entertainment professional comes with tax deductions that can lower the government's take.

Classes

If your kid is already earning money as a performer -- theater, music, movies, whatever -- then training that "maintains or improves skills needed" is deductible. Depending on his field, that could include, for instance, ballet classes, singing lessons or jazz music practice. This only applies if he's already in the game: the IRS rules out education to begin a new career. If he's only daydreaming about his future as a pro violinist, violin classes aren't a write-off.

Clothes

The IRS is pretty strict about deducting clothes you buy for work. Buying a suit, for instance, doesn't count, because even if you never wear suits outside the office, you could -- so there's no write-off. Performers have more flexiblity, because a lot of outfits, such as clown suits or ballet leotards, really aren't everyday wear. The IRS specifically says musicians and entertainers can deduct the cost of "theatrical clothing and accessories" if they're not suitable for wearing away from the stage.

Travel

If your kid owns a car, she can take a per-mile deduction -- 56.5 cents as of 2013 -- for driving to gigs, plus parking costs. If you drive her in your car, she can still get a write-off for parking, tolls and other expenses she pays for, plus the cost of taxi, train or bus travel. For overnight trips, she can deduct travel costs, plus lodging, plus 50 percent of the cost of meals. Unless you're acting as her business associate or manager, she can't get a deduction for bringing you along on the trip.

Your Contribution

If you're helping your child out -- paying for the dance lessons, driving him to performances -- you don't get to take the costs as a tax deduction. Unfortunately, neither does he, as he didn't pay the bill. Some parents have tried treating the money as a loan to be paid back down the road when the child is rolling in money. Unfortunately, a lot of child performers never hit the big time, so there's never any payback. You may have to accept that like most parental expenses, it's a gift you don't get back.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

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