Last year was one of the most fruitful for me as an actor. I toured in a small Shakespeare for schools production and did a few other paid projects in London. I also worked on and off for a catering company to supplement my income when things were a bit lighter on the acting side. At the end of September, I had the thought – how do I show this when its time to file my taxes? Unfortunately I’ve spent the next month with a building sense of foreboding at the back of my mind. The tax deadline was getting closer and closer, and I had no way of knowing how much tax was due.
I want to spend my time building my career not worrying about HMRC
I didn’t get into acting so I could file my taxes. Actors are all about the hustle, whether it’s looking for jobs on audition boards, slogging across town to get to get from a rehearsal to a class, or networking after a show (also known as spending time in the pub). Even if we aren’t earning money directly, everything we do goes into pushing forward with our actual goal – to make great art, and not go broke doing it.
After several hours staring at HMRC’s online form I decided to take the plunge and call The Showbiz Accountant. There are a bunch of packages depending on what you need. I went for the simpler package, which was great for me. I now have a dedicated accountant and unlimited phone calls for me to ask questions. Even dumb questions, like if my latte counted as an expense (the answer is no, unfortunately).
Spending money on an accountant was a big deal for me. I am pretty frugal in a lot of aspects – I shy away from travel, limit the amount of money I spend on clothes, and I am a huge proponent of making your own Christmas presents for friends and family (sorry, Mum). But the thing with getting an accountant – especially one who understands how actors work – is that they can tell you exactly where you are missing out on the money.
I would be spending hours upon hours on my taxes if it weren’t for Keith, my accountant (big shout out to Keith). Every moment you spend researching and filing your taxes when somebody else can be doing them at twice the speed and double the accuracy, is a moment you aren’t spending on your craft. If you have a Keith, like I do, you have advice at the end of a phone call, and taxes become infinitely quicker to file.
Accountancy as an investment
In the first month of having an accountant, I learned from Keith that I could claim a whole bunch of things as expenses. My Backstage membership. Train tickets to auditions. Books I have to read when researching a role. The amount of money even a simple accountancy package can save you often ends up paying for the majority of the cost.
However complicated your tax affairs, I’ve found having an accountant in my corner invaluable, especially one that understands the endless hustle that is the life of an actor. They know and deal daily in the financial world of different forms of income, allowable expenses and how HMRC work. They can end up saving you money and giving you more time to work on your craft. Seriously, get yourself a Keith.