Musical Musings

How to be a tax-efficient musician

It’s easy to be a tax-efficient musician if you’re organised and keep things as simple & streamlined as possible. Sounds too good to be true?

As a piano teacher for beginners and also a Chartered Accountant, I understand how difficult it can be to run, promote and perform in your day to day business as a musician/music teacher, without the added headache of having to keep books and records AND submit complete & correct tax records.

Here are some really basic but practical tips on how to be a tax-efficient musician.

Tip 1 – Keep clear, easy-to-access records which you can find fairly quickly. If you’re still paper all the way, get a good quality folder with about 10 dividers and as many clear plastic wallets. Have sections for invoices/summaries, collect receipts in wallets and keep all HMRC tax records in one place. It’ll make things much easier for when you come to log in and do your tax return (or hand it all over to your accountant). Keep your system simple and sections clearly defined and you’re more likely to use it regularly.

Apps like expensify are great for recording receipts, tracking time/mileage and for creating reports on the go. Providing you record all items this way, you should in theory have all your income & expenditure in a couple of taps.

Tip 2 – Register yourself with HM Revenue & Customs at the earliest opportunity

The government is more than a little cash-strapped and has clamped down heavily on tax avoidance, non-compliance and any other behaviour it deems not up to scratch. If you’re employed, receive payslips from your employer that show tax is deducted at source (such as a music teacher employed by a school) and have no other income, you don’t need to register with HMRC. However, if you’re self employed (teach at home, have no employment contract etc), then you’ll need to notify HMRC. There are penalties if you don’t notify and register for self assessment in time – just do it as soon as you can! You can create an online account with HMRC and use this to create and file your tax return, plus view tax payments/balances online. You’ll need to ensure you’re paying the correct rates of income tax and National Insurance by the various deadlines.

Tip 3 – Understand what music expenses attract tax relief

The rule is that you can claim tax relief on music expenses provided they are ‘wholly and exclusively’ relating to your music business. Keep/record all expenses you think fit into this category. Typical expenses you can claim tax relief on include:

  • Travel to and from gigs/trade shows, lessons, training – any trip relating to your business (keep your fuel receipts)
  • Sheet music
  • Piano tuning and repairs
  • Assets bought for and used in the business – your piano (under the Annual Investment Allowance you should be able to write off the full cost of your piano, piano equipment and assets introduced into the business, up to a point)
  • Insurance, such as public liability
  • Website costs
  • Advertising, including any graphics designer costs, printing, attendance at events to publicise your trade
  • Training received (such as lessons, masterclasses)
  • Music publications and subscriptions

There are other items I’ve not listed here but always ask yourself “Is this item wholly and exclusively connected to my piano business?”.

The worst case scenario is an HMRC enquiry. They can be painful to go through and end up costing you in accountants’ fees, plus potential penalties.

Keep your records up to date, claim tax relief on what is correct and keep yourself off HMRC’s radar.

I hope that helps – more tips to follow.

 

 

Tips on practicing scales and arpeggios on the piano

Whether you’re a child (or the parent of a musical child) or an adult not entirely enamoured at the prospect of cracking a load of scales and arpeggios, here are some hints and tips to help ease the pain and get you gliding up and down B flat major before you know it.

Firstly if you’re working towards a piano exam, remember that this part of the test is only a small part of the overall picture. In an ABRSM exam, scales and arpeggios account for 21 out of 150 marks, whereas pieces are worth 30 marks each. Don’t get too stressed about this bit but make sure you’ve covered the basics and can play most reasonably well.

Secondly….scales and arpeggio technique….

  1. Little & often – like almost anything else in life, if you take on too much at once, it will overwhelm you and you’re more likely to give up early. For beginners and early-grade pianists, set aside 10-15 mins a day or every other day to focus on 1, max. 2 scales/arpeggios or ‘exercises’. Nail it, don’t move on until you’ve played it through well 5 times
  2. Get familiar with the ‘shape’ of the exercises. Notice how D minor scale has two black notes at the top, then learn G minor – this is similar at the top of the scale and has an added B flat. Anticipate the black notes and shapes, and you’re fingers will be familiar with where to go next.
  3. Finger patterns – for many of the major & minor ‘white note’ scales, the finger patterns are the same. For C, D, E, G and A scales, notice how the thumbs play together on the middle key note and the third fingers play together. If you go on to play Mozart, Clementi and other similar composers, you’ll be glad you’ve put in this sort of ground work!
  4. Make it fun – if you’re working towards an exam, practice everything in a random order. The examiner chooses the order and practicing this way should help you to listen and focus on what you’re playing. Don’t stick to going through a scales book, try
  • Lucky dips – we write ALL scales & arpeggios on the backs of cereal boxes in rectangles, cut them out and put them in a ‘lucky dip bag’ (any suitably-sized receptacle will do!); either alone or with a friend, pick out one rectangle at a time and give it your best shot
  • If you don’t have cereal boxes, write the exercises on lolly sticks or anything small, reasonable substantial and small enough – I had a pupil do this and she had a great time each night (she did call them the lolly sticks of doom though!)
  • Bingo – write out a ‘bingo card’ and then pick out your rectangles – finish practice once you’ve got a line!
  • Roll a dice and pick out that number of exercises – repeat 3 times. You might end up doing 18 or 3 exercises but over the long run, you’ll cover them all.

 

Keep at it, don’t give up and make sure you’re playing plenty of fun music in the meantime – it’s not all about scales but they do help.

Thanks for reading!

ps I teach piano to beginners and early grade pupils in Worcestershire so please get in touch if I can help with your piano queries – suzanneblundell@suziebpiano.co.uk

Worcestershire wedding fayres

I love a good wedding fayre and at the moment Worcestershire seems to have loads of them!

If you’re getting married in Worcestershire or the surrounding counties anytime soon, firstly….congratulations! Secondly, here are some handy wedding sites to check out:

Hitched – info on Worcestershire wedding fayres and on some of the gorgeous venues on offer

For Better or For Worse – some extra Worcs venues for you to consider

UK Bride – shows wedding fayres and venue options for Worcestershire, West Mids, Warwickshire and surrounding areas

I’m playing on the gorgeous grand piano at the wedding fayre at Grafton Manor – come and say take a look around and say hello!