Businesses Offer Artists Free Tax Assistance

A PAINTER with a studio off the kitchen needs to figure a home office deduction. A dance company needs to raise funds and increase its visibility. A museum needs to set up a viable bookkeeping system. The arts are filled with technical tax and business problems. Low-income artists and nonprofit arts organizations need not despair, for around the country business people and tax specialists donate their time and services to help those in need. Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts in Houston has over 300 accountants around the state who answer tax questions as well as assist in fiscal reviews and tax audits. According to Sarah Roady, director of the program, the annual value of these services exceeds $500,000.

There are, of course, criteria. The Texas program requires artists to submit copies of past tax returns that show net incomes of $15,000 or less. There is a certain flexibility in this.

The Greater Louisville Fund for the Arts ``sets no income limits,'' says Baylor Landrum, vice-president for programs. ``The only criterion for someone to get tax help is that they have found my telephone number.''

While most programs do set relatively low income standards for assistance, ``it is shocking how many artists actually qualify,'' Sue Greenberg, executive director of the St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts, stated.

The need for this kind of program has been widely perceived as so few artists or arts administrators have any business background.

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