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Tax Deductibles for Touring Musicians (and other business trips)

For a business travel to be deductible, the trip must be considered “overnight” - meaning you must require some form of lodging and it has to be away from home or the general area where you normally conduct business. (So no, a 3-day gig on Staten Island for a Bronx resident would NOT count!) The trip must be PRIMARILY for business (entirely job-related) and it would be a temporary assignment lasting a year or less. Most musicians' tours fit into these rules.

If you're a musician on tour, you will probably get a daily reimbursement, called a “per diem.” However, if your expenses (on food, travels, and lodging) exceed this per diem, then the difference can be deducted. So for example, if you're given $50 a day but needed to spend $60, the extra $10 that you needed to spend can be deducted (have receipts ready for this). Also, it's very important to always list all reimbursements received in the tax return, even if you're including a deduction. Usually deductions and per diem reports will be in the included in the W-2 form for regular employees. However, self-employed musicians/independent contractors have to use the Schedule C form. The per diem is then counted as “income” and then travel/meal expenses are deducted in part 2 of the form.

Some other travel expenses that can count as deductibles:

  • Transportation between home and business destination (car, train, plane or bus; boats might have different rules, so if you're a cruise musician, this might not apply to you – check IRS for more detailed rules if not sure about something)
  • Local transportation (taxis, car rentals, public transit, etc) – remember, this must be business-related, so things between hotel and venue, travel from airport to hotel, etc
  • Lodging
  • Baggage fees
  • Business calls, internet access fees, etc