Tax Questions

Original Question:
Can performing artists (say, orchestra members, working in several groups as employee) deduct mileage to rehearsals and concerts? It is typical in our area for musicians to play in 2 or three symphony orchestras in neighboring communities – and the mileage can really mount up! And yet they are “employees”, getting a W-2. What am I missing?
Any help would be useful.


Your question has some complications.  Basically, you need to decide where your tax home is located; this may not be the same as your family home, but rather it is the entire city or general area where you regularly conduct business.  So if you have a regular job or one job where most or your rehearsals and performances take place, then that is your tax home. Travel expenses, including mileage, to locations outside this area are deductible. If you have more than one work location, then your tax home is the main place of business where most of the time, income, or degree of business activity occurs.

If you have no main place of business, your tax home is the same as your
main home if:

1) you perform some work in the vicinity of the main residence, and the residence is used for lodging while doing business there.

2) You incur duplicate business expenses while on business travel.

3) You:

a) have not abandoned the vicinity in which your historical place of lodging and main residence are located.

b) Have family members currently residing at the main residence.

c) You frequently use the main residence for lodging.

If only two of the above factors are met you still may have a tax home, but this would need further examination. If one or none of the above factors are met then you are considered a transient worker and travel expenses, including mileage, are not deductible. If you have a home office, like a practice studio (see article about home offices on then mileage to these other job locations would be deductible. If no home office, then mileage between two jobs in different locations on the same day would be deductible even if you are considered a transient worker.

I hope this is helpful,


About the author

William Hunt
William Hunt

Bill Hunt has been a professional tax accountant since 1993. His tax preparation career began with H&R Block, where he prepared individual tax returns for ten years. He now manages his own tax practice, preparing individual as well as corporate tax returns, and specializing in tax returns for musicians. He is an Enrolled Agent with the Internal Revenue Service, allowing him to represent clients before the IRS. Bill holds a Master of Business Administration degree with concentrations in Finance and Corporate Accounting from the Simon School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester.

In addition to his tax career, Mr. Hunt has been a member of the First Violin section of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra since 1975, and also serves as Concertmaster for the Penfield Symphony. He has been guest soloist with the Penfield Symphony, Fredonia Chamber Players, Cincinnati Community Orchestra, and The Society for Chamber Music in Rochester. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati and a Master of Music degree from the University of Michigan.


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  • Hi,

    My wife works full time for an orchestra and receives all the benefits of such – predictable schedule, a contract for the year, insurance, etc. She receives a W-2 from them every January. She is for all intents an employee.

    However, she also subbed for another much larger orchestra in another state this past year for about 12 weeks. These were anywhere from 1 to 3 week engagements. When she worked there, she was responsible for her expenses of travel, lodging, food. This added up to about 2500 miles round trip, a couple of flights, and around 70 days of meals. She received a W-2 from this group, even though she really didn’t enjoy any of the benefits of being an actual employee – she had no guarantees of work, no contract beyond 3 weeks, and definitely no benefits package. She did have taxes taken out and I believe pension contributions under the groups’ CBA.

    What I am wondering is if she can treat this work and its expenses as any kind of self-employment and take above line deductions rather than fall under the unreimbursed employee business expense category, which creates a much more complicated situation – we would have to itemize her travel and costs for every ensemble rather than just the one she subbed with and a festival.

  • Mr. Hunt,

    I’m a young musician filing taxes as an independent for the first time and could use your help. Can I deduct any of the concert attire or music that I purchase?

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