Key Issues, Tax Withholding, NEA Grants, and FEMA (7/15/2008)
Key Issues Await Action
Several priority issues for orchestras have seen promising progress on the Hill, but remain unresolved as Congress tries to wrap up work before adjourning early for the elections.
NEA Funding: On June 11, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee recommended a $15.3 million increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in FY09. If approved by the full House and Senate, NEA funding would total $160 million. However, Congress is deadlocked over how to move ahead with funding for nearly all federal programs. Spending will likely be set at last year's level until a new Congress and President arrive in Washington next year.
Arts Education: The House Appropriations Subcommittee has approved $38.6 million for Arts Education at the U.S. Department of Education - only the second time in the past eight years that the House has included any funding for the Arts in Education programs. As with NEA funding, the most likely scenario for arts education spending is steady funding at last year's level until Congress re-considers federal funding in early 2009.
Artists Visas: The ARTS Act was approved by the House on April 1. The bill to improve the visa process for foreign guest artists is now up for consideration in the Senate, with strong hopes for passage before the end of the summer.
IRA Charitable Rollover: A one-year reinstatement of the IRA Rollover charitable giving incentive was approved in the House as part of a larger tax package, before the overall bill became entangled in arguments over how to pay for a number of tax provisions.
Take an opportunity to communicate with your elected officials on any issue that resonates with your orchestra, and stay tuned for specific League advocacy alerts.
Steer Clear of IRS Penalties
The IRS is stepping up enforcement of the tax and withholding requirements for foreign entertainers. If your orchestra engages musicians from abroad, it's important to know that the tax rules are very different than the usual procedures for U.S. musicians. Do you know enough about the rules (and the exceptions!) to safely avoid IRS penalties? The League offered two webinars on this topic in May and continues to provide online technical assistance. Visit Artists from Abroad, and check out the tax section, where the League has posted all new guidance to help untangle the web of IRS requirements. Authored by attorney Robyn Guilliams, the site includes details on withholding requirements, U.S. tax returns, identification numbers, and links to all of the forms needed to comply with IRS rules.
Upcoming NEA Grant Deadlines
Two opportunities remain for orchestras to apply for FY09 NEA Grants. The Access to Artistic Excellence grant category encourages and supports artistic excellence, preserves our cultural heritage, and provides access to the arts for all Americans. An orchestra may request a grant amount from $5,000 to $150,000. The deadline for Part Two of this program is August 11, 2008. Applications to the Arts on Radio and Television category, which supports radio and television programs intended for national broadcast, are due September 5, 2008. Grants range from $20,000 to $200,000. As your orchestra considers applying, check out the League's grant application tips and lists of previous grants to orchestras.
Prepare for Disasters - Before They Strike
Just one year ago, performing arts organizations officially became eligible for disaster relief assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The League, together with the Performing Arts Alliance, worked with Congress and federal agencies to ensure that performing arts organizations in communities affected by disaster will have improved access to federal relief. The key to qualifying for FEMA assistance is to plan ahead and have the proper documentation in order - namely, if your orchestra rents a facility, you'll need to show language from your rental agreement that spells out that your orchestra is responsible for repairs. The League is compiling an overview of FEMA rules. In the meantime, check out the official FEMA policy.
Invite Congress to Your Concert
One of the best ways to convince elected officials of the public value of your orchestra is to show them - firsthand - an orchestra experience. This August, and throughout the fall, members of Congress will be returning to their home state and districts. It's the perfect opportunity to invite them to a concert, reception, community event, or education program. The Performing Arts Alliance, of which the League is a founding member, has crafted clear guidance for understanding how to invite members of Congress to your events, keeping in mind the Congressional gift rules. Find it in PowerPoint by clicking here, or view it online in the link below.