Tuesday 9 October 2012

Cultural Donations as Tax Deductions

This week I attended the Smilies’ monthly meeting at a Paddington pub. The Smilies is a group of mostly children’s authors who network to share their writing successes, worries and publishing  information. One of the pieces of information I shared was how to get a tax deduction as a writer under the Cultural Grants Program (previously known as the Tax Incentive for the Arts Scheme).

It works like this: one collects relevant papers, which might include letters from publishers and other authors, illustrators, etc., working drafts of a book, critiqued drafts, handwritten notes — anything to do with the creation of a book. (An illustrator, for example, might collect roughs in progress, notes from editor or art director and so on). My next donation includes captioned photos of authors, illustrators, editors and others in the children’s book industry, old book contracts and some essays written when I was a teenager. When you have a pile of material ready, you contact the organisation to which you want to donate.

My author husband Bill Condon and I donate to the State Library of NSW (but it could be to the National Library of Australia, the Lu Rees Archives, etc). A field officer comes to our home and collects our material which is then valued by two independent valuers. When this is done, an average is taken and a certificate then posted to the donor. The certificate states how much you can claim as a tax deduction in that financial year. Bill and I donate every 3 to 4 years; this last year my deduction was $2,000 and Bill’s was $3,500. This tax bonus is something that not many people know about.

At the Smilies’ meeting one of the writers complained about the fact that she had paid $50 to enter a writing competition (with a $50,000 first prize), but was shocked and angered to discover that some writers had been ‘invited’ to enter. The results of the competition are not out yet, but this writer was so upset by the condition of entry that she wanted to ‘do something.’ My contention — and that of others at the meeting — was that there is nothing she can do. The rules set out the information about ‘invitees’ and so it was up to her whether or not to accept this condition; obviously she did, though it would be safe to say she hadn’t really studied the conditions before submitting her entry. The only recourse she has is to let other people know of this stipulation, and not to enter competitions with similar conditions.

Another author at the meeting told how she was now writing for digital down-loading — book apps and longstories (whatever they are). She is saddened that the Australian writing community, including the Australian Society of Authors, is not au fait with what is happening with regards to e-books. Even when the ASA organises seminars on digital publishing, she claims their presenters are out of date. What I found startling is that the writer doesn’t know if she will be getting any income from her hard ebook writing. For myself, I want to wait to see where there is money to be made e-publishing before I succumb to putting my out of print manuscripts into e-book publishing. What do others think?

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