Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Case of the Struggling Artist

The creative life isn't easy. We've all heard stories of starving writers and artists and musicians living in garrets as they try to earn a few pennies from their chosen profession. Year after year after year of hard work without a profit.

But they might have a tax deduction.

Last month I discussed the case of the traveling food critic who couldn't deduct excess writing expenses because his actions showed he wasn't writing to make a profit. But what if he had been and was just unsuccessful?

Consider the case of the struggling artist.

Gloria Churchman trained as an artist and pursued her art regularly and continuously for twenty years. During that time she taught art classes, created paintings and sculptures in a home studio built for that purpose, and kept records of her sales and expenses.

Churchman exhibited her paintings and sculptures at least once a year. She visited commercial art galleries to solicit shows and maintained a mailing list for announcing them. At one point she even opened her own gallery to showcase her work. She also reproduced her art as posters and in books in order to make it more available to the public.

Although Churchman had some income from her artistic activities, she did not have a single profitable year. Yet, in spite of twenty years of losses, the tax judge looked at all the facts and decided that Churchman's art was her business, not her hobby.

Like Maurice Dreicer in last month's post, Churchman spent twenty years incurring expenses that exceeded her income. So why were the results different?

Churchman worked hard at her craft and tried to make money from it, while Dreicer ate his way across several continents looking for ways to spend his inheritance.

Hard work doesn't always result in publication or profits, but it can get you a tax deduction.

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Tax season is over, so stay tuned for a change of subject in next month's post on the case of the sneaky cook.

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Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her new book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), will be available from Amazon on May 1 and is coming soon from other retailers. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court's First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at


  1. Good way of showing the other side of last month's picture and the good example of perseverance.

  2. Every year I think I'll show a big profit, haha. Not so far even though my income increases. Maybe this year. At least I hope I don't have 20 years to go... Thanks, Kathryn.

  3. Unfortunately, most writers struggle for years before they make a profit, if they ever do, but that's the nature of the business. Thanks for your comments.