What Records should an Artist keep
A number of my artist friends are due to file their tax returns to HMRC by the end of this month. I am sitting here with a big smug smile on my face because I did mine and filed them back in July.
However, this post isn’t about me feeling smug-, It is intended to hopefully help you not only with your tax returns but with all your art-related record keeping.
If you are sitting there thinking, this doesn’t apply to you, because you only sell a few paintings each year. Stop. If your annual sales are over £1,000 you are legally required to fill out a tax return.
I can’t advise you on how much tax you would have to pay but if the only income you get is from your art, then you don’t pay National Insurance until your turnover is £6,000+ and tax isn’t due until over £11,500 ( I think that is the current threshold but you would need to check it). Clearly if you have income from a job, pension or something else, all these figures need to be added together and the HMRC informed.
They are really helpful at the tax office these days so any concerns, just phone them and they will be able to give more accurate advice.
Filing tax returns is not the only record keeping you need to do, even if your sales are well under the threshold. I suspect you probably produce many pieces of artwork which never see the light of day, so what is the best way to keep a record and why should you do it?
Keeping records helps you when it comes to trying to locate past works. My advice to you is either set up a spreadsheet or, if computers are not your thing, buy a notebook and start keeping a record.
I suggest that you start with a high number, such as 101 or 1001 just because it gives more credibility to your work if it doesn’t look like it is your very first piece.
Write the number on the back of your artwork, along with the title (if there is one) and your signature. Even if you have signed the front, sign the back, too and date it.
If you decide to bin the work, make sure you put that in your records, too.
I have been known to reuse canvases. In such cases I make sure that the old number has a note against it and I use a new number. I do this because I want to keep my paintings, prints etc. together as bodies of work from a certain time and a particular theme. It is just neater.
The system I use is to photograph every piece and print a passport photo size which I stick on a record sheet and write along-side it the title, medium, size, orientation, price and frame colour. Once a piece of work is sold, I mark it as sold, the price paid (I do give friends and family discounts), and the details of who I sold the work to.
I then file this in a large folder which I call my bible. In addition, I use an online company to store details of my work so that I can quickly provide information if needed to a third party, plus, as I make more work, other people will find it far easier to work with an online system than my antiquated folder. I will not give up my folder though, as I like having my records in a physical form.
As I said at the beginning, I filed my tax returns in July, three months before the deadline. Why? Well, getting them done and out of the way is one less thing for me to worry about. I could have sat on them until the end of the month and then filed them, but why wait.
So what do I do to get them ready?
Firstly I have a reminder set in my Outlook calendar which informs me on the first of every month that my accounts need to be updated.
I would love to tell you that I do my accounts monthly and as a former accountant I really should, but I haven’t done my account since June. June to October are my really busy months. As soon as October is over I have put aside three days to update my records. And I will do them.
However, reminding myself every month does make me think about how much has happened financially during that period. As sales and purchases have been fairly small, I know that I can get everything up to date in one day but by setting three days aside, allows for any emergencies.
If you are very busy selling work every month you will already be producing tax records so much of what I have said here is superfluous, but I suspect you are not all on top of your accounting records.
Putting them off when you know that you have had lots of sales and purchases because you don’t like doing them is not a good idea. If you have consistent sales you have a business. If you have a business, producing proper records is part and parcel of running it. You need to know what is going on in your business. I can tell you to the penny exactly how much money I have in my business account; I know what purchases I need to make to produce work; and I know what income I am due to receive through commission pieces. I don’t know how many sales I will make at an exhibition, it is the only unknown, and if I do really well, then I do a catch up of my accounts within a couple of days of that exhibition ending. So far this year my exhibition sales have been low, which is why I haven’t written up the records yet.
Another really important set of records you should keep is who has bought work from you.
If someone has bought from you in the past, they are far more likely to buy from you again, but unless they know how or where to buy from you then they are unlikely to take the time to find out. You need to nurture these people. So, start building that list of contacts and, in particular, their email addresses.
Once you have an email list you are in a position to let people know what you are doing and when/where you are doing it.
You may only exhibit with your local art group once or twice a year but most art groups share the buyer’s details with you. Contact the buyer, thank them for buying from you and ask them if you can put them on your email list. Then, every time you are preparing for an exhibition you can email the people on your list, share details of the work you will be exhibiting, give them information about the exhibition and invite them to the Private View. Make your buyers feel special because if they have bought from you, they are special.
Finally, I publish a monthly newsletter, which is going to be revamped slightly. It will be the place where all new works will be shown before being posted to my website or any of the social media platforms I use.
I am also going to have giveaways for newsletter members, too. So if you would like to see work before anyone else and would also like to be included in my giveaways then please head over to my website and sign up for my newsletter.