skip to main content

Claiming Expenses As a Self Employed Musician

This MU resource covers information on the expenses that a musician can claim. These include expenses including travel, stationery, instrument repair and more.

Last updated: 06 November 2023

How do expenses work for self-employed musicians?

The Income Tax Act states that, as a self-employed individual, you are entitled to claim for expenses incurred "wholly and exclusively… for the purpose of trade".

The tax authorities will only allow expenses which fall under this definition - but it does cover most of the expenses that you will be likely to come across. For any claims that you make, you will need to demonstrate that the expenditure was incurred as a direct result of your work as a musician.

In 2021, the government reformed the tax system to facilitate the tax return process for small businesses. If you're a self-employed musician, your income tax will now be based on a quarter of your profits for the previous year, and three quarters for that of the current year.

With these changes in place, it's much easier to get your figures right - along with evidence of incurred expenses. The MU offers tax advice and guidance for musicians, so please get in touch if you need support with your personal finances.

What can self-employed musicians claim on expenses?

Certain circumstances will demand negotiation. For example, stage clothes are a very grey area and could fall under the notion of ‘duality’ by serving more than one function during a performance.

Below, we explore the more usual types of allowable expense. This is by no means an exhaustive list - and you might incur similar lines during the course of your work:

How to claim musician expenses on your tax return

Firstly, you must always inform HMRC that you need to complete a tax return.

If you have only just started working on a freelance basis, you should register as self-employed before requesting a form. In most other cases, the standard Self-Assessment tax return form will need to be completed.

In order to claim expenses successfully, you'll need to keep evidence. The types of item that you should keep might include but are not limited to:

  • Dividend vouchers
  • P45s/P60s from your employers
  • Receipts for donations made using the Gift Aid scheme
  • Bank interest certificates
  • Notifications for any state aid received
  • Paperwork for assets that you have sold

Can musicians claim Railcards as expenses?

Travel expenses are often deducted from income tax. However, if you have recently purchased a Railcard to save money on rail fares, you might not be able to claim back the cost through HMRC.

Of course, this will depend on your employment status and the protocol of your external agency or employer, where applicable. We always recommend talking to your business partners to find out which costs and expenses you will be responsible for paying.

Capital allowances

Capital Allowances are a system of spreading expenditure on items such as vehicles, office furniture, computers etc., over their useful economic life. These allowances can be a little confusing until you know your way around them, but they are important. This is an intricate area of tax and we recommend that you seek advice where necessary.

A Guide to Tax for Musicians provided by Chartered Accountants HW Fisher

We work with Chartered Accountants HW Fisher to advise musicians on all aspects of tax, accounting and bookkeeping.

Download the 2023/24 Tax Guide for musicians

Further details can be obtained from HW Fisher & Company’s Martin Taylor or Andrew Subramaniam.

You can contact HW Fisher & Company by sending an email or visiting the HW Fisher website.

Contact the Musicians' Union today

The MU has a network of experienced teams available to help musicians in all areas of the industry. If you have any questions about our services, membership or how the MU could help you with claiming expenses as a musician, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Contact the MU