Trump’s tax bill ‘will greatly reduce musicians’ tax deductions’

Trump’s tax bill ‘will greatly reduce musicians’ tax deductions’


norman lebrecht

November 19, 2017

If you are a musician working in the US, you’ll probably need to read this analysis of what the new tax bill means for you.

It’s by Scott Stratton, financial adviser and trombone player, married to the Dallas Symphony’s principal oboe:


Musicians have been asking me if the new tax bill passed by the House yesterday will have any impact on us. Yes, the legislation, if passed in the Senate, will greatly reduce the ability of professional musicians to deduct many of the expenses we incur in our work.

I should state right at the outset that it is possible that your taxes may be lower under the current proposal. That’s because the plan will increase the standard deduction from $6,350 (single) and $12,700 (married) in 2017 to $12,000 and $24,000 in 2018. As a result, it is believed that instead of 33%, the number of taxpayers who itemize will fall to only 10%. But it also means that if you have itemized deductions below $12,000 (single)/$24,000 (married), you will no longer receive any benefit from those expenses in 2018….

Read on here.


  • Steve P says:

    True. But the offset of having a much higher standard deduction – and its lower risk threshold for triggering audits – is worth it in my opinion. As with all tax revisions, there are loopholes that haven’t beem discovered yet, so I suspect this will wind up being a net gain for people who work and want to keep more of their take home pay.

    • Scotty says:

      And on the upside, you’ll be able to deduct your private jet.

      • Roger says:

        Mine was repossessed last week.

        • Baskar Alvar Maniccam says:

          The United States is the world’s most richest, most powerful and technologically innovative country; but neither its wealth, nor its power, nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty in the United States. Many people barely surviving on Skid Row in Los Angeles. Thousands of poor people get minor infraction notices which seem to be intentionally designed to quickly explode into unpayable debt, incarceration, and the replenishment of municipal coffers. Yards are sewage-filled because state governments don’t consider sanitation facilities to be their responsibility. People had lost all of their teeth because adult dental care is not covered by the vast majority of programs available to the very poor. Soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by opioids, and people in Puerto Rico are living next to a mountain of completely unprotected coal ash which rains down upon them, bringing illness, disability and death.

          The sewage-filled yards were found in poor areas like Lowndes County, Alabama, where many people cannot afford to install septic tanks, causing sewage to pool by their homes. This untreated waste creates the potential for all kinds of diseases. In Lowndes, it has led to the proliferation of hookworm, a parasitic disease of the intestines commonly found in the world’s poorest developing countries.

          In most European countries, like Germany for example, public transportation works efficiently and there is a social safety net. While homelessness is a problem, it’s nowhere near as rampant as in the US and usually seems to be associated with addiction. People in Europe are generally much healthier and happier, housing and food and higher education are affordable and people don’t spend all their time working – they are able to take vacations and enjoy life in a way the vast majority of Americans are not. Europeans are typically entitled to lengthy paid maternity leave, whereas in the US working class women are forced to return to work in as little as two weeks.

          Meanwhile, New York’s Subway system is decaying due to disinvestment and corruption. Last summer a train stalled, leaving passengers in the dark with no air conditioning for an hour. “As the heat of packed-together bodies fogged the windows, passengers beat on the walls and clawed at the doors in a scene from a real-life horror story,” reported the New York Times. In Washington DC, the nation’s capital, the Metro is always late and totally unreliable, with train fires becoming a regular occurrence while Amtrak trains experience routine derailments. These are just some examples of infrastructure decay. The list goes on: bridges are crumbling, schools are shuttered. In Baltimore dozens of schools had no heat during record freezing temperatures this winter. The only thing America’s leadership seems capable of investing in is prisons and war.

          In America, the old devour the young. Young Americans are struggling under the weight of $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. But don’t let that confuse you about the state of America’s elderly. They too aren’t taken care of. In many European countries people are entitled to pensions and they can retire comfortably. In the US some have to work until they die as Social Security isn’t enough to live on and Medicare doesn’t quite cover all of their medical needs. As for healthcare, as many as 45,000 people a year die because they cannot access it.

          And then there is the issue of water. There are over 3,000 counties across America whose water supplies have lead levels higher than in Flint, Michigan, and nothing substantial is being done to address the problem.

          All this is taking place in a nation where inequality continues to climb. There are counties a few miles apart from one another where the life expectancy drops by 20 years. The life expectancy gap, as high as 20.1 years between rich and poor counties, resembles the gap seen between low-income countries versus rich countries. In other words, there are pockets of the US that have the characteristics of third world countries. It seems that the US in many ways, after having destroyed other parts of the world, has turned inward on itself, sacrificing its most vulnerable citizens at the altar of capitalism.

          Bernie Sanders made an issue of this during his presidential bid, often noting in his stump speeches the dramatic difference in lifespan in McDowell County, West Virginia, where men live to about 64, and six hours away in Fairfax, Virginia, where the average lifespan shoots up to 82. Perhaps none of this should come as a shock in a country where the rich are getting richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class is collapsing, with most Americans living one emergency away from financial ruin.

          All empires fall after all. And Donald Trump is accelerating the process. His Republican tax plan was a massive giveaway to the rich. It even included a special tax cut for private jet owners. The US might have the highest child poverty and infant mortality rates in the developed world, but the political class believe private jet owners deserve a break!

  • Roger says:

    The US Tax code, I’m told, is 70,000 pages long. There’s a reason for that: If the middle class could easily, readily see how it’s stacked against them, they’d revolt.
    Anyone supporting this current attempt to further screw the working class is either a Republican politician or a fool.
    When you see Paul Ryan celebrating a “victory” with his house buddies in a photo/video op, you know you’re being screwed.

    Good luck, professional musicians, Republican, Democrat, Independent, alike.

    • Steve P says:

      Spoken like a good member of the proletariat.

      • Roger says:

        I’m not only a good member, like 329 million other Americans, I’m also a proud member. You speak like a 1%er. If you’re one of me, on the other hand, I suggest you turn on your Republican Srcrewdar. They tried about 70 times to take away healthcare, they continually attack entitlements and are attempting, yet again, in their Great Tax Bill For The Rich, to sabotage healthcare for millions of your fellow proletarians. A good, proud proletarian wouldn’t stand for that. Good Luck, American Workers!

  • Greg says:

    I would think for many musicians the doubling of the standard deduction would offset their previous deductions since only a portion of unreimbursed business expenses actually come off the top of what is owed. The current tax code is ridiculously complex and needs to be streamlined. Any change that benefits a majority of tax-paying Americans helps everyone. What’s the difference in a musician being able to write off dry cleaning a tux and someone in the “1%” being allowed to write off jet expenses? Same concept, different tax bracket. Business expenses are business expenses. Even though I am one, I get sick of hearing musicians whine about their financial plight. If you can’t make it, get a higher paying job. Or get an additional job. You are not solving world hunger or curing cancer. There are hundreds of thousands of truly poor folks that wish they had the opportunities we do. The starving artist narrative is tired and is borne out of your choice. In the final analysis classical musicians are entertainers who often rely on the disposable income of the evil “1%” for their livelihood. We all need to see a bigger picture, grasp how the entire system works, and stop perpetuating the victim mentality that is taking over the US.

    • Roger says:

      The whole thrust of the Trump Tax Bill is to throw a morsel to working Americans so they’ll in turn accept that the 1%ers are getting a windfall.
      That’s how the system works.
      I have no time for the apologetic telling complainers to get another job if they don’t like their current one, or its compensation. Typical.
      How do you suppose it happened that middle class people came to feel so undeserving, self-loathing, and so lacking in self-respect? No one I know deserves more from their toil than I do–or less. I learned that attitude on my own and no one is stripping it from me with a bogus, lop-sided, cheating tax bill.

      • Greg says:

        Class envy is so unbecoming. I don’t begrudge the 1% or what they have. Most of them have what they have because of hard work and achievement in an area/field that allows for that gain. Good for them. It’s a good thing there are some highly successful people in this country for they are the ones who stir the drink that is our national economy. They provide good or services that benefit us all. Their business entities create jobs for many. They are not to blame for what I pay in taxes and I don’t feel they should be punished or extorted because are successful. If the government wasn’t so consumed with buying votes and perpetuating the welfare state with entitlements and handouts we would all be in better shape.

        “How do you suppose it happened that middle class people came to feel so undeserving, self-loathing, and so lacking in self-respect? No one I know deserves more from their toil than I do–or less. I learned that attitude on my own and no one is stripping it from me with a bogus, lop-sided, cheating tax bill.”

        Who says the middle class feel this way? Perhaps you are just projecting? If anything, perhaps the middle class should be pissed about the fact that they have to subsidize people who scam the welfare system, people who collect unemployment or disability illegally, and illegals who receive government benefits. No one deserves more or less for their toil than you? Just because you learned socialism on your own doesn’t mean it is correct. I suspect many people deserve more than you do and I suspect many people warrant less. Income equality is a fallacy. Ask Cuba. Ask China. Ask North Korea. Ask Venezuela.

        • Roger says:

          Not talking about income equality; the subject here is an unfair tax code about to become more so.

          I’m glad to “subsidize” those needing help. Why is it that you and your ilk have no objection to picking up the slack created by subsidies, tax breaks and loopholes, credits, exemptions, etc. to the rich yet complain endlessly when a single parent gets a few bucks to feed her/his kids?

          You should run for the state legislature in ’18 or ’20 because Republicans are going to need all the candidates they can find after they’re done screwing voters (of both parties) over.

  • Joanne Pencak says:

    The personal exemptions are eliminated. The standard deduction “doubling” is a sham.

  • David says:

    Greg said it best above! After working in Independent Music now for 25 years and as Sony published, (charted) songwriter, my taxes will be $5000 dollars less now this year.
    The deductions game was ridiculous, and financial advisors and accounts were the ones that made the $$ off this system. Now, this let’s the smaller Indies go back to using TurboTax, etc. and not pay Accountants and Advisors $800.00 etc. a year to figure it all out.

    Unless you are Lady GaGa as an Indie you WILL pay WAY less this year on taxes, we sat down with two accountants, one of the top Music Law authors in the nation and went thru the whole thing –

    Stop whining so much, stop being left or right, join your own party, it’s called the American Party, where you learn to learn and think for yourself. The far left and the far right are parties that are about to be booted anyway.

    As far as healthcare, Obama spent so much making all the healthcare sites, and state sites, we could have paid for healthcare for every American man, woman, and child for approximately 10 years … then we had to pay another 500 million to fix it, and it still doesn’t work.

    Wake up, grab some books. Start with Donald Passman’s. Especially before composing this type of article. Wisdom is power.

    • Roger says:

      See you back here in a few years. When did Republicans every do anything helpful for hard-working Americans? They threw you a crumb hoping you’d accept–or not notice–the windfall they gave themselves and their well-heeled donors.
      I’d like to know how this kind of self-dealing can go on in our government. What a joke! A sad, underhanded, sick joke. If I were as good a song writer as you, I’d write a whole opera called, Sly Underhanded Republicans Screw American Workers Again. I know it’s long, but I’m open to suggestions from you, being the expert and all.