Sunday, September 18, 2011

Documentary and the IRS

Back in June we first heard about a case where a US Tax Court Judge, Diane Kroupa, had suggested that documentaries mainly serve to educate rather than to make money. If this became a rule, expenses would no longer be tax-deductable, making any documentary maker subject to much higher taxes. NotesOnVideo: The Goal of this Blog is NOT to Educate

Not a whole lot has been heard about the case since then, but there have been some additional articles published:

FilmMaker | Why Filmmaking Cannot Be A Hobby
Documentary filmmakers have become especially vulnerable to the perception that they are engaged in a hobby rather than an activity for profit. Because development takes so long and revenue sources are so difficult to sustain, filmmakers often endure losses over many years. They persevere because they become so passionate about their subject matter and the need to spread their message to the world that generating a profit may not seem primary.

filmfwd | Filmmaking: The Hobby (Again)
My original point in “At Least Hobbies Are Fun” was that most filmmakers probably make little or no money from their films, and that certainly films very rarely “make money” in the traditional concept of cost vs. return. There are an elite number of filmmakers who make money by being paid and an even more precious few who could say their independently financed film earned more on net than it cost to make.

Dare Dreamer Magazine | Is Your Business Really a Business, or a Hobby?
The IRS sees your business as one of 2 things: a business trying to make an earnest profit, or a hobby. And, the onus is on you to prove beyond a doubt that you are operating as one or the other. This is just one of many issues that the IRS has been coming down on small business owners and private individuals in recent years.

Huffington Post | Is Your Documentary Film a Hobby? A Judge Thinks So
The top 100 documentaries produced over the last few year all made over $1 million. Yet, if the IRS accepts a judge's ruling in an Arizona tax case, documentaries would be classified as a "hobby" and therefore treated as a not-for-profit venture, meaning you would not be able to deduct the expenses you incurred making the film, and even might be liable for back taxes on past documentary projects.

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