Getting the right mix for income and tax for sound engineers

Getting the right mix for income and tax for sound engineers Alex Robertson March 25, 2024

For creative professionals like writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers, intellectual property (IP) is your lifeblood. It’s the embodiment of your ideas, the foundation of your career, and your most valuable asset. But navigating the complexities of IP ownership and its tax implications can feel daunting.

The first thing to understand is the nature of the IP that you own and the best way to secure your rights:
● Copyright: Protects original works of authorship like literary, musical, artistic, and dramatic creations. Copyright generally arises automatically upon creation of your work. However, registering your copyright with your national copyright office provides stronger legal protection and simplifies enforcement.
Trademark: Protects logos, symbols, phrases, or designs that distinguish your brand. Trademark registration isn’t automatic, but highly recommended. It establishes your ownership and allows legal action against infringement.
Patent: Grants exclusive rights to an invention or process for a limited period. It’s less common for creatives, but you never know – Hedy Lamarr, the old-school Hollywood actress, pioneered the tech that would one day form the basis for today’s WiFi. The current patenting process, meanwhile, is complex and expensive, so you should consider its cost-effectiveness for your specific invention.
Trade Secret: Protects confidential information that gives you a competitive advantage. Maintaining confidentiality is key for trade secrets. Restrict access, consider non-disclosure agreements, and document the steps you
take to protect your secret information.

There are a number of tax benefits from owning your IP. For one thing, the costs associated with securing IP rights (registration fees, legal consultations) are generally tax-deductible as business expenses. Income from licensing your IP can be deferred by structuring it as a royalty agreement. You only pay tax when royalties are received, not when the initial licence is granted. And in some jurisdictions, assets like copyrighted software or patented inventions may qualify for capital allowances, allowing depreciation deductions against taxable profits.

The best thing to do is to get good advice on the tax strategies to adopt. This might include:

Choosing the right business structure is key – operating as a sole trader, limited company, or partnership influences how your IP income is taxed. Talk to us to determine the most tax-efficient structure for your circumstances.

Keep meticulous records of all IP-related expenses, income, and agreements. This documentation is crucial for claiming tax deductions and demonstrating ownership in case of disputes. Expenses related to creating and protecting your IP should be
clearly separated from personal expenses to ensure eligibility for tax deductions.

You may also want to consider that if you create something collaboratively, you should ensure clear co-ownership agreements outlining rights and responsibilities, especially regarding tax implications.

It’s also possible to structure licensing agreements to optimise tax benefits. Consider royalty-based agreements with deferred income or upfront payments with lower royalty rates. You could even sell your IP, though that is a taxable event.
Understanding capital gains tax implications is crucial. We can help you minimise the tax burden.

By taking proactive measures to secure and manage your IP, you empower yourself to build a sustainable creative career. Understanding the tax benefits of IP ownership and implementing tax-efficient strategies can significantly impact your bottom line.

Chat to us for more tailored advice.