Depreciation of Musical Instruments

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.
Lynda Ayres


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 for more information, especially regarding older string  instruments.

Thank you for your question and good luck with your next  concert!

Bill  Hunt

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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