Being a tattoo artist or a shop owner comes with the freedom to be creative and control your own business. It also comes with a more complicated tax filing process than a traditional 9-5 job. To help you out, we’re diving into accounting and tax tips specific to the tattoo industry. Whether you’re running a shop or just starting out, here’s what you need to know:
Set Yourself Up for Success: How Do Tattoo Artists Show Proof of Income?
If you’re an employee of a tattoo shop, providing proof of income is pretty simple. You’ll rely on the W-2 that your employer will provide you at the end of each tax year. However, most tattoo artists aren’t paid as employees.
If like the majority of tattoo artists, you’re considered self-employed, you may have put a little more work into providing proof of income. If you’re paid through the tattoo shop owner, they’ll give you a Form 1099 instead of a W-2. This form reports the total amount they’ve paid you since the beginning of the tax year, and they’re required to provide a copy to both you and the IRS.
However, the 1099 isn’t the end of the story. If you’re an independent contractor, you’re most likely paying your own business expenses as well like supplies, rent, and more. Depending on the pay structure in your shop, it’s also possible that the shop owner won’t supply you with a 1099. If you get paid by clients directly and pay rent or a percentage to the shop owner, you’ll be responsible for keeping records for all of your income. (In this case, you’re actually supposed to supply the shop owner with a 1099 for rent paid.)
No matter how you’re paid, keeping track of expenses and income is essential for both independent contractors and shop owners.
Accounting Software for Tattoo Artists
The most convenient way to do this is with bookkeeping or accounting software. You’ll want to link it to a business account that is separate from your personal checking and savings account. Set these up as soon as you start seeing clients and incurring expenses, and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches come tax season.
Your accounting software will allow you to be your own bookkeeper, making it easy to track expenses, keep digital copies of receipts and invoices, and generate monthly profit and loss statements. While we don’t endorse any specific software, we know many tattoo artists enjoy the integration of DaySmart Body Art and Quickbooks, which is designed specifically for tattoo artists and integrates your scheduling, payroll, client communications, and accounting software for easier record keeping.
How to Handle Tips
Tips are considered taxable income, but how you record and report them will depend on how you receive them. If you receive tips directly from your clients, you’ll record them in your accounting software just as you would with other forms of income. (Note that if you’re technically an employee of the shop, you’ll be required to report the tips you receive to your employer. If you’re an independent contractor within the shop, you won’t need to report your tips).
If you’re a shop owner, handling tips can get a little more complicated, depending on how you pay artists. If clients pay each artist directly, you may not have to worry about handling any tips except your own. However, if they pay the shop, and you then pay each artist a percentage of the tattoo fee, you may be responsible for distributing tips appropriately. An integrated payroll and accounting software that’s built to handle tips can make this far easier. You can usually reach out to your software’s customer service team to make sure you’re distributing and recording everything correctly.
How To Classify Your Workers as a Shop Owner
Classifying workers can be a tricky business, but it’s essential to get it right. If you don’t, you could end up facing fees and penalties from the IRS. Most shop owners consider their workers to be independent contractors, but in some cases, it may be more appropriate to classify them as employees.
Are Tattoo Artists Self-Employed?
In most cases, yes, tattoo artists are classified as self-employed. If the artists in your shop pay for their own supplies, set their own schedules, and handle the administrative side of their work (like tracking income and expenses and determining what services they offer), they’ll usually be considered independent contractors.
However, if you cover the cost of supplies, set schedules for the artists, control how they are paid and the services they can offer, and provide benefits like paid leave, you might have an employee-employer relationship. Be sure to read up on the IRS guidelines for classifying workers as well as the rules in your own state. Some states, like California, have stricter rules than others.
How To File Taxes as a Tattoo Artist
Tax Software & Accounting Integrations
Another benefit of using accounting software? Some will integrate directly with a tax filing software, so when you go to file, all of your information from the year is already entered. QuickBooks, for example, integrates with TurboTax. Depending on your subscription plan, the cost of the tax filing is often already included in the monthly fee for your accounting software.
These are the most common forms tattoo artists and shop owners will use in tax season:
- Schedule C (Form 1040) reports the profits and losses from your business.
- Schedule SE (Form 1040) This portion of Form 1040 calculates your Self-Employment Tax.
- Form 1040-ES is used to file quarterly estimated tax payments.
- Form 1099. The various versions of this form report non-employee earnings. If you’re paid by a shop owner as an independent contractor, they should provide you with a 1099-NEC. If you are paid directly by the client and pay rent to the shop owner, you may be required to provide them with a 1099-MISC.
- Form W-2 is used to report wages for employees.
Overwhelmed? No worries. If you use a tax filing software, you usually won’t have to fill out the forms directly. Instead, your software will ask you a series of questions and automatically fill out the forms for you.
IRS Business Code for Tattoo Artists
Many artists wonder if they’ll need an NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code in order to file taxes. While you won’t need it for tax filing purposes, you might need it for other tasks like applying for business loans. The code for the tattoo industry is 812199 – Other Personal Care Services.
Most tattoo artists will be subject to the Self-Employment Tax, which amounts to 15.3% of their taxable income. 12.4% goes to Social Security taxes, and the remaining 2.9% goes to Medicare taxes.
Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments
Self-employed taxpayers are required to make estimated tax payments to the IRS each quarter. You can use Form 1040-ES to calculate the amount you owe each quarter and pay through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). If you don’t want to calculate manually, your accounting software will usually calculate the amount for you.
Skipping quarterly tax payments usually comes with penalties from the IRS, so don’t forget!
Shop Owner and Tattoo Artist Tax Deductions
Whether you’re a shop owner or an individual artist, you can deduct all business expenses that are both “ordinary and necessary” to your business. So the cost of ink, needles, supplies, liability insurance, and rent in the tattoo shop? All deductible. Just make sure you’ve tracked expenses and saved receipts throughout the year.
A good tax filing software will help ensure you don’t miss out on other common deductions like the home office deduction or the Qualified Business Income Deduction.
When to Hire a Pro
While it is possible to handle your books and taxes yourself, sometimes it’s best to call in the pros. The larger your business, the more stressful and complex it is to keep records and file correctly. If you own a shop and have several artists, the time you save by hiring an accountant may be well worth the cost. Even if you’re just filing as an individual, hiring a tax pro can still be a good idea if you aren’t confident in doing it alone.
To make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, look for someone with the CPA or Enrolled Agent credentials and ask if they have experience working with self-employed taxpayers and business owners.
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