“What’s this system I’ve heard about on your site where artists don’t lose any payments if they earn grant/ artwork sale/ artist fee ‘income’?”
If you’ve ever been earning extra income on Centrelink, you know the drill. Any extra income has to be declared, and reduces your payments.
What’s worse, Centrelink can take your grant money, or money from art sales, or any visual arts income, from you - as some Centrelink folk don’t understand that money for the visual artists is usually very rarely profit. (More often than not, high expenses come out to produce it, such as materials, studio rent, paying photographers, gallery hire, etc.).
The following system allows you to keep most visual art related income and government grants, without losing centrelink payments. It’s called ‘art as a self employed business’ (or “MOD F”).
First decide whether you may want to apply for the NEIS grants scheme any time in the future. The NEIS scheme (after some administrata) is a type of small business grant that provides 12 months dole without forms, and the ability to keep arts income, and some non arts extra income. So - good. But remember that it is technically only for ‘new’ businesses, and hence be aware the following guide may make you ineligible for NEIS in that arts area in the future.
If you do want to use this system instead (it’s a goodie): register your visual arts practice (or ‘arts services’) as a SELF EMPLOYED BUSINESS. You will need to ask for and fill out a “MOD F form”.
Tips for how to get through the form and interview are below. Once you’re in, use invoices (when earning extra income) as much as you can. For all extra income received, try to get invoices rather than pay checks, and tick ‘SELF EMPLOYED’ income on your fortnightly form (not ‘INCOME’) - this way your benefit is only reduced for the profit made, and it’s therefore guaranteed income to keep.
In the end, many never have to supply any profit/ loss statements with this system - Centrelink rarely chases them up - even though most can easily prove they make a loss. But, it’s always safe to make a note of all your invoiced income and expenses in a PROFIT/LOSS statement (for allowable expenses see the ‘allowable expenses’ section below). List extra income and arts expenses on the other and make them add up to a small profit (say $50). Note that for any profit, you have to pay back Centrelink payments as if it were income, but a small profit helps prove your business is viable. If anyone has any tips on the length of time and ideal profit levels, please leave a comment.
Supply your profit/ loss statements quarterly, bi-annually, or annually (depending upon your ‘contract’ with centrelink). They won’t chase you up on this but it is a good idea to drop them in regularly - if there is a problem it is less likely to be a big one. It also shows on your records that (even though you’re a “flakey visual artist”, you’re actually onto it.
What type of visual arts income can you include using this system?
These can be any visual arts related income that is invoiced or not a salary. This includes:
- art sales money
- extra income in visual arts related service fields - such as tutoring (when using invoices), arts writing, curating – any visual arts job which requires a practicing artist (and hence the ongoing expenses).
- gallery sitting wages (visual artists get these jobs)
- artist talk fees
- artist fees for exhibitions
- government grants recieved
- visual arts cash prizes
What type of arts expenses can you claim?
A range of visual arts expenses can be used to off-set your centrelink income, which includes:
- partial home rent (% of office that is home floorspace), phone and mobile bill, gas, electricity, web costs
- studio rent, studio telephone
- visual arts materials
- travel to set up or view visual art exhibitions (airfare, accommodation)
- fine art magazines and visual art books
- movie tickets and video hire (’visual culture education’ - $300 available with no receipts)
- car (maintain a log book, with $? claimable without reciepts, or $? per km. Does not include travel to and from work.
- Any conceivably visual arts equipment – computers, hardware, software, cameras, data projectors (buy in the quarter you need the deduction!)
- Film, printing, framing
- Paying professional photographers
- Professional memberships to visual arts organisations
- Art exhibition Entry Fees, Postage, CD’s for sending Images, Money-Orders for Art Exhibition Fees
What should/ shouldn’t I say in a MOD F form/ interview?
Some questions, and recommended answers, include:
Q. When do you work on your self-employed business?
A. I only work on my self-employed business in my own time (at nights or on the weekends), as I am a full-time jobseeker. it is less than 20 hours per week total.
Q. how many sources does your business income come from?
A. it comes from ‘more than 3 sources’.
Q. is this business selling your labour, or selling products?
A. this business is selling my labour.
Q. i’m sorry, but centrelink does not support other businesses.
A. this is an existing way i have of increasing my ability to find employment, done in my spare time.
Other useful phrases:
“I have recieved government grants (from the federal/state/local government) to show that they consider my business viable”.
“The average amount of time for a new business to break even is seven years.” (i don’t know if this is true but it sounds right - anyone know?)
“Being on Newstart while Self Employed.”
“Casual work is probably my best way of leading into full time employment.”
“It’s the best I have been able to do in an increasingly casual working environment.”
3:00 am by Intern in Uncategorized
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