is a performance piece from artist Grayson Earle
that transforms mundane purchases into tax deductible expenses by performing and recording the act of consumption. In this way, an artist could theoretically write off their purchases in totality. It’s intended as a criticism of corporate tax dodging, but also a potential prefigurative future tactic. All the trips to Mar a Lago and wars in the Middle East can’t happen without tax revenue, after all.”
How much money has this project saved you in the past year?
Grayson Earle: I believe the total was $222.25. That’s just deducted from income that I would normally have to pay taxes on, which means I really just saved something like 30 percent of that, or 70 bucks. In that way the project is kind of a deceit, and I didn’t want to list the $222 total so as not to underwhelm people. However, it does serve as a really useful proof of concept. I mean, there’s no reason someone couldn’t buy a home or a car, and then perform and document there, and deduct it as art materials-as a business expense.
How did you first find out about the US tax laws that have allowed this project to be possible?
From the times I’ve gotten mixed up with the NYPD due to activism
I’ve had some interesting conversations with lawyers. Basically I see technology as a way of outpacing the law, or at least outpacing our adversaries in general. I know first-hand how tax law works concerning artists because that’s my life, and every April 15th I claw back a bunch of money the government has been holding from me. I know that when I travel places to do research I get a per diem, for example, that I can deduct. And basically as an artist the “proof” is kind of elusive. As in, does the IRS have a trained team of art historians making sure that an argument can be made that my trip to India eventually led to this conceptual pivot I made that got me to American Mandala
which I just showed at Wayfarers? It all just got me thinking. And with all these Tax Evaders (taxholes, perhaps) cheering at Trump being in office, and this new proposal that the corporate tax rate get cut to 15 percent… Will the future just be everyone registering themselves as a corporation to save on taxes? I think it’s important that we start thinking through this stuff now.
What has been the best and tastiest tax-deductible meal so far? – Do you plan on continuing this project indefinitely?
Tastiest meal was definitely the bourgeois wine I had before watching Game of Thrones. I would never have purchased that without the excuse “it’s for an art project.” And jeez, it was good.
Whats the wackiest expense you’ve made since starting this project? Could anyone pass this off or do you need some sort of ‘artist certification’ to pass miscellaneous expenses as art materials?
The wackiest expense was the Clinton-Trump hybrid hat. I bought it when everyone knew Clinton was going to win and I wanted to be cheeky. Then Trump won and now I don’t want anyone to think I’m sporting him on a hat so it’s on a shelf somewhere. Oi vey.
Actually there are some interesting precedents regarding who can do this sort of thing. Basically, you need to be able to prove that you are an artist and this includes an exhibition record. Things are changing in the sense that a lot of this happens online now, and I think that’s still a bit of an unknown. The IRS is pretty old school and I imagine you need to prove “brick and mortar” artist status. I was also an artist in residence at the Hemispheric Institute for Performance Art and Politics so I have that credential in a pretty official way. The IRS has also historically argued that you need to make a certain amount of profit or else you get re-classified as a hobbyist. However, that decision has been overturned recently. It’s funny because for me art is very political, and I have never intended to sell any of the things that I make, so the label of ‘artist’ that I employ in everyday life doesn’t really jive with the IRS, which as an organization thinks “that’s great, so how much money did you make and where is our 30%?”
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