What makes an artist an artist? If someone says she is an artist, is that sufficient? What if all her income is earned from artistic endeavors such as painting, music and other kinds of performances? It would probably seem to most people that such a person would be considered to be an artists for all intents and purposes.

However, there is a crucial entity that has a say in whether someone is an artist, and it might surprise a lot of people in Minneapolis: the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Currently, a performance artist whose sole income of roughly $20,000 per year comes from artistic activities, is battling the state because officials ruled that she was actually a hobbyist, rather than a professional artist. This means that associated tax deductions she has taken over the years are not valid, because they cannot be considered related to her job, and so she owes thousands of dollars in back taxes.

This was quite a surprise to the artist, whose taxes have een handled by a professional accountant for years. She says she has her own studio and has supported herself for the last 10 years solely as an artist. She frequently tours around the region and around the country, so she has associated transportation costs that she has been counting as business expenses. She is fighting the ruling.

While the outcome of the case will mean a lot to the artist, it will also have an impact on many others in Minnesota who might be in a similar situation. An experienced tax attorney may be able to assist people who are dealing with difficult tax issues.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio, “Thousands in back taxes ride on one question: Is Venus de Mars a professional or amateur artist?” Marianne Combs, July 19, 2013