Opinion: New tax legislation will hurt musicians classified as orchestra employees

Posted on: February 6, 2018

The recently enacted tax reform bill “seriously disfavors employees while benefiting the self-employed and those who can form business entities,” writes Daniel Braden in a Saturday (2/4) editorial in the Morning Call (Allentown, PA). Braden was a tax consultant to musicians for twenty years. “Orchestra musicians do not fit easily into the IRS system of classifying workers as either employees or self-employed independent contractors…. Under the previous tax rules, employee musicians deducted their expenses as part of Schedule A itemized deductions. Under the new tax law, no employee expenses are allowed to be deducted at all.… This can mean a serious loss when an employee is required to pay out of pocket for substantial expenses, as is the case for orchestra musicians.… Since instruments are necessary business equipment, all musicians have been allowed to take depreciation deductions spread out over a number of years, and to deduct the cost of repairs, supplies and specialized instrument insurance as well. Yet now orchestra musicians may not deduct any of these instrument expenses, even as independent contractor musicians may still do so.” Employees in other affected professions include college professors (research expenses), service-industry workers (work clothes/uniforms), and office workers (depreciation on a computer a taxpayer’s employer requires him/her to use for work).

Posted February 6, 2018