Do I have to pay tax on my busking income in Ireland?
You might busk because you want to boost your profile in the Irish music scene... or maybe it’s because you need some extra cash... or it could be because you want to bring a little more culture to the city and make people look up from their phones every once in a while.
We all love catching a good sing-song on our lunch breaks here at the Taxback.com Stephen’s Green office and we love the bit of joy that buskers bring to our city but did you know that buskers are legally obliged to pay tax on their busking income?
Here in Ireland, we have a long-lasting culture of music, storytelling and creativity. Our fondness for the arts is probably why the government introduced the Artist Exemption Scheme. The scheme allows creatives to earn up to €50,000 a year tax-free (that is of course under certain circumstances) – if Revenue deems your work worthy of the exemption. You can read more about the Artist Exemption Scheme in our detailed article here.
While musical composition and legitimate gigs can qualify for the artist's exemption, there’s a good chance your street performance or busking efforts isn’t going to be recognised as worthy in the eyes of Revenue or the Irish Arts Council.
Progressive attitudes in the UK
While here in Ireland we’ve seen some pretty drastic clamping down on buskers, with the introduction of bylaws and licensing requirements, across the pond, it was announced that they would be introducing a contactless payment scheme to encourage busking in London.
The system will allow buskers to take card donations from passers-by on the spot. This is something that has never been done before anywhere in the world. It will also make it easier for British tax authorities to keep a closer eye on how much income buskers are generating.
Hey Buskers, Need a Hand With Filing Your Taxes?
The busking scene in Ireland
All you have to do is take a walk down any busy street in any Irish city and you’ll stumble across everything from rappers to bands, solo artists, living statues and old men playing the spoons – but how much tax are these performers obligated to pay and how do they go about paying it?
Basically, any income you make must be taxed. Income you generate from street performance of any kind be it your sole income or something you do on the side of your PAYE job, is considered income by Revenue and so it must be declared. You are legally obliged to declare any income you make by filing a tax return each year.
So let’s look at a couple of different scenarios and how you can go about sorting your busking related taxes…
First things first…
Let’s explain a little bit about how tax works for buskers.
A busker is essentially self-employed and busking can be considered a job, which means money earned from busking can be considered income.
If you are not self-employed and are solely a PAYE worker, you’re not obliged to file your taxes. You only need to file if you want to claim a tax refund. However, if you’re a PAYE worker who has a side gig of any kind (be it busking, hairdressing, babysitting), you are obliged to file either a Form 11 or a Form 12.
How do I know if I need to file a Form 11 or a Form 12?
If you earn under €5,000 a year from busking, you may file your busking income under your PAYE taxes by submitting a form 12.
If you earn over this amount, you must file a Form 11 and file your taxes as self-assessed.
Full time busker – register as a sole trader
George is a guitarist who busks several days a week in Dublin. This is his only source of income bar the odd nixer. He earns around €170 per week and must file a Form 11 and register as self-assessed with Revenue, declaring any income he has made from any gigs or nixers no matter how big or small.
George has kept the receipts from his instruments, amplifiers and any equipment he has received for busking, he can claim reliefs on these work-related expenses as the enable him to do his job.
PAYE busker earning over €5k. Register as a sole trader
Emma is a drama teacher at a local primary school. Her employer withholds tax on her behalf like all PAYE workers in Ireland. She pays the standard PRSI, USC and Income Tax. Emma just also happens to be a puppeteer who busks on the streets of Galway at the weekend with her puppet show.
She makes an average of €40 per hour. She puts on her show almost every Saturday and Sunday for several hours throughout the year and comes out with a busking income of around €6,500 per year.
Since Emma is earning above the threshold for filing under the PAYE system, she must file a Form 11 and register with Revenue as self-assessed. She will be charged €500 PRSI and not Income Tax or USC.
Emma could claim capital expenses on her equipment and that goes for all materials from sets, to music equipment to fabric and so on.
PAYE busker (or any other gig on the side) earning under €5k
Fiona works in retail, she is taxed under the PAYE system. Fiona is a violinist and likes to busk the odd weekend with her friend who is a singer. The pair make about €70 a weekend between them. They get €35 each. Because Fiona is under the €5,000 threshold, she must file her busking taxes by submitting a Form 12.
Hey Buskers, Need a Hand With Filing Your Taxes?
While the regulation of buskers is good for the economy and there shouldn’t really be exceptions when it comes to paying tax, some buskers have expressed a disdain for the introduction of bylaws and the enforcement of regulations.
One busker interviewed by the Irish Times stated that he believed that many buskers are living on the margins of society and that the introduction of permits and stricter licensing will have extremely negative effects on these people as declaring their earnings means their benefits will be affected. In Galway, certain bans have been introduced that have had serious impacts on performers. Such as the amplification of instruments is now prohibited before 6pm in Galway as well as the prohibition of ‘circle acts’ which require an audience to watch, stop and participate in the show. While the rules imposed on buskers might seem unfair, it's your duty to declare your busking income.
How Taxback.com can help you!
If you’d like to know more about the taxation of buskers, pop over to our 24/7 live chat and a member of the Taxback.com team will be more than happy to answer your questions!
Or if you have earned income from busking and need to file a tax return, why not do it the easy way with Taxback.com? We ensure you’re claiming all of your tax reliefs and expenses and guide you through every step of the way. Get started with filling out our online form here.