Artists' exemption from income tax

Introduction

Income earned by writers, composers, visual artists and sculptors from the sale of their works is exempt from tax in Ireland in certain circumstances.

Section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 allows the Revenue Commissioners to determine that certain artistic works are original and creative works generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit. Earnings from these works are exempt from income tax from the year in which the claim is made.

There are guidelines (pdf) to determine whether a work is an original and creative work and whether it has cultural or artistic merit.

The guidelines also set out certain categories of work that are eligible for the scheme and the types of work that are not eligible.

Revenue’s telephone helplines during COVID-19

Artists’ Exemption helplines are operating as normal during COVID-19. Queries and submissions can be made by directly emailing direct-taxes-admin@revenue.ie.

Rules

To apply for the Artists’ Exemption you must be resident, or ordinarily resident and domiciled, in an EU member State or EEA State and not resident elsewhere. Section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 provides that a work can be considered for exemption if it is an original and creative work in one of the following categories:

  • Books or other forms of writing
  • Plays
  • Musical compositions
  • Paintings or other similar pictures
  • Sculptures

Your work must be both original and creative and to have either cultural merit or artistic merit. It is not necessary for your work to have both cultural and artistic merit - the presence of either quality is sufficient.

Cultural or artistic merit

A work has cultural merit if:

  • Its quality of form and/or content significantly enhances one or more aspects of national or international culture.

A work has artistic merit when:

  • Its quality of form and/or content enhances to a significant degree the canon of work in the relevant category.

Original and creative work

A work shall be regarded as original and creative only if it is a unique work of creative quality brought into existence by the exercise of its creator’s imagination.

Non-fiction books

A non-fiction book may qualify for the scheme if, in the opinion of the Revenue Commissioners, it:

  • Incorporates the author’s unique insight into the subject matter and is regarded as a pioneering work and
  • Makes a significant contribution to the subject matter by casting new light on it or by changing the generally accepted understanding of it and
  • Is in one or more of the following 4 categories:

1. A work in one or more of the following:

  • Arts criticism
  • Arts history
  • Arts subject work (where the subject is visual arts, theatre, literature, music, dance, opera, film, circus or architecture)
  • Artists' diaries
  • Belles-lettres essays
  • Literary translation
  • Literary criticism
  • Literary history
  • Literary diaries

2. A biography or an autobiography

3. A work related to a function or functions of the Heritage Council as described in the Heritage Act 1995

4. A work that relates to archives older than 30 years on Ireland or Irish people and that is based largely on research from such archives

Types of works excluded from the Artists' Exemption scheme

The following types of work will not be regarded as originaland creative or of cultural or artistic merit:

  • A book or other piece of writing that is published primarily for, or that is or will be used primarily by, students pursuing a course of study.
  • A book or other piece of writing that is published primarily for, or that is or will be used primarily by, people engaged in any trade, profession, vocation or branch of learning as an aid to professional or other practice in connection with the trade, profession, vocation or branch of learning.
  • Any work of journalism published in a newspaper, journal, magazine, on the internet or on any other similar medium.
  • Any writing, visual or musical work, or other like work, created for advertising or publicity purposes.
  • Adaptations, arrangements, and versions of musical compositions which are not of such musical significance as to amount to original composition.
  • Types or kinds of photographs, drawings or paintings that are mainly of record, that serve a utilitarian function or which are created primarily for advertising, publicity, information, decorative or other similar purposes.
  • Types or kinds of works of sculpture that are mainly functional in nature.

Payments to artists that are exempt from tax

The following payments are exempt from tax from when they are made to an artist who has received an Artists’ Exemption:

  • Payments from the sale of works that are considered eligible under the Artists Exemption scheme
  • Arts Council bursaries when paid directly to the artist
  • Residencies when paid directly to the individual by the Arts Council for the purpose of producing a qualifying work
  • Cnuas payments made under the Aosdana Scheme
  • Advance royalties.

Advance royalties

Where an artist receives advance royalties towards the subsequent publication of a book or other piece of writing, he or she must apply for the Artists’ Exemption in the tax year in which the royalties are paid if the royalties are to be exempt from tax. When applying for the exemption, the artist must provide confirmation from the publisher that the book will be published. A draft copy of the work must also be submitted.

Where an application is received in the tax year in which the advance is received but a determination has not yet been made, any tax liability arising on the advance must be paid. If a determination is subsequently granted, the Inspector of Taxes will review the artist's liability and make any appropriate refund if tax has been overpaid.

Advance royalties that are paid before the year of claim are not exempt from tax.

You can get further information on the Artists’ Exemption from Revenue.

Exemption amount

The maximum amount exempted is €50,000 (this was €40,000 prior to 2015). The exemption only applies to income tax. The artist's exempt income is subject to the Universal Social Charge and PRSI at the appropriate annual rates.

How to apply

Claiming tax relief

To apply for the Artists’ Exemption, you should submit a claim form to the Revenue Commissioners, together with samples of your work and any supporting documentation (such as testimonials), that you consider appropriate. You can get an Artist Claim Form 2 (pdf) from Revenue - see 'Where to apply' below.

You will need the following samples and supporting documents for the following categories:

  • Book or other writing – full electronic version or one published copy of the book
  • Play – a copy of the script together with a signed copy of the production contract
  • Musical composition – links or a CD where the claimant is accredited with the music or lyrics and any other relevant information
  • Painting or other like picture – 6 good quality photographs of work and a brief CV of artistic career to date
  • Sculpture – 6 good quality photographs of work and a brief CV of artistic career to date

Where to apply

Applications may be submitted to the Artists’ Exemption Unit by email to direct-taxes-admin@revenue.ie and should include the relevant information.

Applications can be submitted by post to:

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

Artists' Exemption Unit
1st Floor, Stamping Building
Dublin Castle
Dublin 2
D02 HW86
Ireland

Tel: (01) 858 9820 or (01) 858 9825 or (01) 858 9832

Page edited: 15 March 2021