A total of 19 entertainment industry unions and organizations sent a joint letter to leaders in Congress urging them to consider legislation that would provide a tax break to hundreds of thousands of entertainment workers laid off during the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter voices support for the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act, which the unions say would allow performing artists to once again receive deductions for expenses, such as travel and union dues, that were once categorized in the tax code as “miscellaneous itemized deductions” before that category was eliminated by the 2017 tax overhaul bill passed by Republicans and signed into law by President Trump. It does so by updating a deduction called the Qualified Performing Artist deduction, raising the cap on adjusted gross income from $16,000 to $100,000 for single taxpayers and $200,000 for couples filing jointly.
The bill was introduced to the House of Representatives last summer by Los Angeles-based Democrat Judy Chu and Florida Republican Vern Buchanan. The restoration of these deductions was also included in the Promoting Local Arts and Creative Economy Workforce Act of 2020, which was introduced to the Senate in January by Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz.
“Unlike most other workers, entertainment industry employees can spend on average 20-30 percent of their income on industry-related expenses such as agents, managers, promotional materials, equipment, and travel. These expenses come directly out of their own pockets,” the letter reads. “These are not celebrities on the red carpet. They are the working-class men and women in front of and behind the camera, on stage and off, who are the lifeblood of our industry. These taxpayers need tax relief now.”
Congress has remained closed for the entirety of April in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus among its members and staff, but sessions for both the House and Senate will resume next week. Last week, Congress passed another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program to support payroll for small businesses after the Small Business Administration’s initial $350 billion fund was used up in less than two weeks. The funding plan also includes $75 billion in grants to hospitals and $25 billion to increase testing for the virus.
Signees for the joint letter included SAG-AFTRA, Actors’ Equity Association, IATSE, American Federation of Musicians, American Association of Independent Music, ASCAP, Berkshire Theater Group, Broadcast Music, Inc., The Broadway League, League of Resident Theaters, Music Artists Coalition, Music Publishers Association, National Music Publishing Association, Recording Industry Association of America, The Recording Academy, Songwriters of North America, WGA, East. WGA West, Department for Professional Employees, and AFL-CIO.