Buchanan, Chu Introduce Bill to Help Performing Artists
WASHINGTON — U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Judy Chu (D-CA) today introduced legislation to update the existing Qualified Performing Artist (QPA) tax deduction to help struggling actors and performers. Since being signed into law in 1986 by President Reagan, the tax code has allowed working artists the ability to take an above-the-line tax deduction for much-needed work-related expenses.
However, this provision, which enjoys broad bipartisan support has not been updated since its inception more than three decades ago is only available to those making less than $16,000 a year. To better reflect today’s cost of living, Buchanan’s bill would update and increase the income ceiling to more appropriately reflect today’s cost of living: $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for married joint filers. This legislation also includes an automatic Consumer Price Index For All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increase to ensure that the deduction remains relevant as the cost of living increases.
“The overwhelming majority of performing artists are lower-income and middle-class Americans struggling to make ends meet,” Buchanan said. “Congresswoman Chu and I are fighting to update this 30-year-old law to deliver needed tax relief for performing artists in Southwest Florida and elsewhere.”
Chu said, “Expenses like head shots, transportation, and more force professional artists to spend up to 30% of their gross incomes just to stay in business each year. I am glad that Rep. Buchanan and I could find a bipartisan solution to fix this problem and even the playing field for our country’s performing artists.”
Working performers in the entertainment and arts sectors are employees, not contractors, who accrue significant but necessary expenses to sustain employment. Such expenses include ongoing training, travel for auditions, promotional material, and talent agent commissions.
Jim Shirley, Executive Director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, said, “This bill would be tremendously helpful to working artists and performers in Sarasota and across the country. I commend Congressman Buchanan's leadership on this bipartisan issue and commitment to delivering tax relief for our performing arts community.”
Kate Shindle, President of Actors’ Equity Association, said, “Theaters large and small are an economic engine in so many cities and towns across the country, including Sarasota. A strong theater scene means a strong arts community, and that in turn means a strong local economy. Rep. Buchanan isn’t just fighting for tax fairness for performing artists, but for a stronger economy that works for everyone. We are grateful for his leadership.”
A 2017 survey by Americans for the Arts estimated that nonprofit arts and culture generates $295 million each year in total economic activity for Sarasota County. This supports 7,400 full-time jobs, generates $220 million in household income, and delivers $32 million in state and local taxes.
Under current law, a Qualified Performing Artist is defined as having 1) performed services in the performing arts for, at minimum, two different employers during a taxable year, 2) an amount of allowable deductions exceeding 10 percent of their gross income related to those services, and 3) an adjusted gross income of no more than $16,000.
According to a recent article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, hundreds of local artists take second and third jobs to support themselves as performers.
“I know firsthand that our performing arts institutions and local talented performers are a tremendous asset in our community,” Buchanan continued. “This bipartisan legislation would help those creative workers unable to deduct expenses that relate directly to their employment and livelihoods.”
The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists estimates that 75% of performing artists stand to benefit from the bipartisan legislation.
Sarasota houses the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Ringling Museum of Art, the Sarasota Opera and the Sarasota Orchestra. Other renown institutions include the Sarasota Ballet and Sarasota Contemporary Dance, Asolo Repertory Theatre, the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Florida Studio Theater, and the Urbanite Theatre.
Buchanan is a senior member of the powerful U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy.