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Theatrical unions ramp up letter-writing campaign in support of tax fairness legislation

IATSE is the latest joins the effort to pass the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act (PATPA).

The US Capitol Building (Credit: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) has encouraged its members to join a letter-campaign urging Congress to support the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act (PATPA). The campaign first launched the weekend of Sept. 9 by the Department for Professional Employees; Actors’ Equity Association joined the endeavor, which also includes the American Federation of Musicians and the American Guild of Musical Artists have been engaged in the effort.

PATPA, which focuses on tax fairness for performing arts workers, was reintroduced to Congress in April 2023.

In a Sept. 15 email to its members, IATSE encourages members to contact their House Representative urging them to cosponsor PATPA if they don’t already. IATSE stated that the goal of the campaign is to build more support for PATPA within the House of Representatives so that the legislation can be considered for a vote in Congress.

If passed, PATPA would update the Qualified Performing Artist (QPA) deduction, allowing more performing artists to deduct essential work expenses from their taxes. As it stands, the QPA enables eligible arts workers to take an “above-the-line” deduction for certain unreimbursed expenses. However, only those with an adjusted gross income of $16,000 are eligible. PATPA would raise that amount to $100,000 for individual filers and $200,000 for couples.

The update aims to correct an unintended consequence of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which changed policies for deductions, tax credits and expensing. As a result, taxes for many behind-the-scenes entertainment workers were drastically increased. IATSE members became unable to deduct work-related expenses that they now have to shoulder the cost of in order to perform their jobs.

Actors’ Equity engaged and retains a lobbyist to strengthen its outreach to Congress. IATSE has partnered with Representatives Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Judy Chu (D-CA), who first introduced the bipartisan bill in July 2021. When the bill was reintroduced, IATSE president Matthew Loeb said in a statement: “While it was disappointing to narrowly miss getting PATPA across the finish line in 2022, we remain greatly encouraged by the bipartisan support that has been built for Representatives Chu and Buchanan’s bill. There is increased awareness in Congress of this issue that has been affecting our members’ financial well-being since well before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered our industries.”

Loeb’s statement continued, “IATSE is working intensely to build on the momentum of last Congress and finally restore tax fairness for thousands of middle-class behind-the-scenes entertainment workers.”