Actors' Equity Association Calls on Congress to Restore Tax Fairness for Performing Artists

Momentum is building behind the Bipartisan Performing Artist Tax Parity Act with nearly 70 House cosponsors.

By: Apr. 18, 2022
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Actors' Equity Association Calls on Congress to Restore Tax Fairness for Performing Artists

At the deadline for filing federal income taxes, Actors' Equity Association is calling on Congress to pass the bipartisan Performing Artist Tax Parity Act (PATPA), introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL).

PATPA would correct an unintended consequence of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act which led to tax increases for many performing artists who could no longer deduct the cost of their ordinary and necessary unreimbursed business expenses. The House version (HR 4750) has nearly 70 cosponsors. The Senate version (S2872) introduced last year by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) has 14 cosponsors.

Professional actors, stage managers and musicians, for example, typically spend 20 to 30 percent of their income on necessary expenses -- such as to pay for travel to auditions or a talent agent -- to stay in the business and to procure employment.

"I am grateful for the leadership of Representatives Chu and Buchanan who have helped us build a strong coalition in the House, and Senators Warner and Hagerty, who are building support in the Senate," said Kate Shindle, president of Actors' Equity Association. "Actors, stage managers and our colleagues are still hurting from COVID. Although unemployment in the live performing arts is still more than double pre-pandemic levels, the cost of looking for work has not gone away; in many cases, it has increased. With a record number of supporters and cosponsors for PATPA, there is no better time for Congress to pass this legislation and restore tax fairness for middle-class arts workers across the country."

To highlight growing support for PATPA, the unions behind the coalition have launched a campaign website, Tax Fairness for Arts Professionals (https://www.taxfairness4entertainmentworkers.org/).

While tax reform did not harm high-income artists, many others in the industry have reported massive tax increases because they lost the ability to deduct their business expenses. "People sit with me and just break into tears because they didn't know what to do," Sandra Karas, a tax attorney and secretary-treasurer of Actors' Equity Association, previously told the Los Angeles Times, which covered the devastating tax increases that hit performing artists.

Supporters now include Actors' Equity Association, American Composers Forum, The American Federation of Musicians, Americans for the Arts, The Broadway League Choreographers Society, Dance USA The Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, IATSE, The League of American Orchestras, The League of Resident Theatres (LORT), the Motion Picture Association, National Association of Music Merchants, Opera America, Performing Arts Alliance, Recording Industry Association of America, Recording Academy, SAG-AFTRA, Save Live Events Now, Theatre Communications Group, Theatre Producers League of Southern California and Writers Guild of America, East.

PATPA would update the bipartisan Qualified Performing Artist (QPA) deduction, which was originally signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. The QPA allows an above-the-line tax deduction for qualified performing artists but has been limited since it was enacted to a total adjusted gross income of the taxpayer to $16,000. PATPA would update the deduction to $100,000 for single filers and $200,000 for married artists filing jointly.

"Despite their disproportionate influence and contributions to local communities and economies, the struggle of Americans in the arts has been recognized for years," wrote Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Judy Chu (D-CA) in The Hill when the bill was first introduced. "Most of the stage actors and stage managers who belong to Actors' Equity Association and members of SAG-AFTRA who work in TV and film are hard-working - often struggling to get by - middle-class taxpayers. They have fallen through the cracks of an imperfect system."

To build support for PATPA, Equity has come together with arts and entertainment unions, working in partnership with each other to meet with Congressional offices. Since PATPA was first introduced in June 2019, the unions have held dozens of meetings with congressional staff. In 2022, Equity testified before the House Small Business Committee about the need to pass PATPA. Previously, Equity joined with SAG-AFTRA and submitted testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee regarding the need for tax fairness for actors and stage managers.

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA. www.actorsequity.org #EquityWorks



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