When tax gets in-tents: What musicians can claim on tax in festival season

When tax gets in-tents: What musicians can claim on tax in festival season Alex Robertson July 1, 2024

The festival season is in full swing and for musicians, it can be a blur of packed schedules, travel, and (hopefully) booming income. And while tax-efficiency isn’t exactly rock and roll, it can mean you come out of summer with more than just hazy memories.

So what expenses can be claimed on tax? 

Mileage is usually a big one. Whether you’re driving your own car, using a van for equipment, or relying on public transport, record the costs of getting to and from festivals. Remember, you can only claim for travel related to your performance, not for personal trips before or after the festivals.

Of course, with travel comes the need for accommodation. Hotels booked specifically for the festival are claimable expenses. Even a tent, if you decide to really dive into the vibe. Keep receipts and avoid blurring the lines with sightseeing trips that extend your stay.

Chucking your instruments into the back of a van can take a toll, but the costs of repairs and maintenance costs incurred during festival season are valid deductions. These would also include things like instrument strings, plectrums, cables, sheet music and the ‘little’ things can help you make the right noises. The cost of insurance of your vital kit should be factored in too. 

If you wear stage clothes, they can be deducted, but if you shuffle on stage in the same T shirt and jeans you’ve had on all day, then that’s trickier.

The life of an itinerant musician doesn’t just happen so if you want to get on, and stay on, the festival circuit, then you’ll need to promote yourself and/or your band. So flyers, online ads, and social media marketing expenses can be claimed, as are website hosting fees, domain registration costs, and portfolio platform subscriptions are all claimable. And if you sell merch, then T-shirts, CDs, and other merchandise you sell at the festival can incur upfront costs. The cost of producing and transporting these items is claimable.

For some festivals, you may have to pay an entrance fee, even if you’re playing, but, if it’s any consolation, that’s a legitimate business expense. Similarly if you have to pay for backstage catering, but be wary of claiming general festival food stalls you visit with friends.

As ever, keeping records is key.  Get receipts for everything you claim, from travel tickets to instrument strings. Use a dedicated business account to keep business expenses from personal spending. This makes record-keeping much easier come tax time. Organise your receipts by category (travel, equipment, promotion, etc.) for easy reference, and track your mileage with a dedicated logbook or mileage tracking app.

You may need help with all this and with the financial side of your creative career more generally. We work with musicians a lot and we know the landscape you operate in. Let’s have a chat and we can help you maximise your income so that you can get on with the good stuff.