Original question:Linda Ayres, March 6, 2010
Dear Mr. Hunt,
I’m an amateur musician. I don’t really earn any money playing the violin, but I play in a community orchestra that plays four or five concerts a year. We are very serious and we sound pretty good. I have the funds to purchase a better violin. Would I be able to depreciate the instrument on my taxes? I also know that old string instruments generally appreciate in value. Am I able to depreciate the violin even if it appreciates? Thanks for your help.
Because you do not play your instrument as an income generating activity, your performing with the community orchestra would be considered a personal activity or a hobby rather than a business activity. As such, you would not be able to claim any expenses related to playing in the community orchestra, including depreciation on the violin. However, if the organization is listed with the IRS as a qualified not for profit organization, then you could deduct mileage to and from rehearsals and concerts as a charitable donation. Please note that persons engaged in a hobby that does generate some income can deduct expenses for that hobby up to the amount of income.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you are playing your violin professionally and earning income from this activity, then you could depreciate the instrument, but please read my article on polyphonic.org for more information, especially regarding older string instruments.
Thank you for your question and good luck with your next concert!