Artists' exemption from income tax
Income earned by writers, composers, visual artists and sculptors from the sale of their works is exempt from tax in Ireland in certain circumstances.
Artistic works that are original and creative and generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit can qualify. 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.
To apply for the Artists’ Exemption you must be resident, or ordinarily resident and domiciled, in one of the following and not be resident elsewhere:
- One or more countries in the EU
- Iceland, Lichtenstein or Norway or
- The United Kingdom
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
- Musical compositions
- Paintings or other similar pictures
This is set out in Section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997.
Your work must be both original and creative and have either cultural merit or artistic merit (it is not necessary to have both cultural and artistic merit).
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
An original and creative work must be a unique work of creative quality brought into existence by its creator’s imagination.
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 original and creative or of cultural or artistic merit:
- A book or other piece of writing that is published primarily for students or one that is, or will be, used primarily by students.
- A book or other piece of writing that is published primarily as an aid for people engaged in any trade, profession, vocation or branch of learning, or one that is mainly used by them.
- 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 similar 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 that 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.
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. 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 decision has not yet been made, any tax liability arising on the advance must be paid. If the application is subsequently approved, 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.
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 – download links or a CD where the claimant is accredited with the music or lyrics, along with 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 email@example.com.
Applications can be submitted by post to: