I Want To Engage A Foreign Artist. Tell Me Everything I Need To Know!

By Brian Taylor Goldstein

Dear FTM:

What needs to be done to bring a performing artist from a foreign country to play in a US concert? How is their pay reported to the IRS? Is withholding required? Do they have to pay taxes on the money that they earn in the US? Etc.

Wow, this is a pretty broad question. In general…and this is very general…in order for a foreign artist to perform legally in the US, he or she will need to obtain a visa. In most cases, this will be either an O or a P visa. (There are almost no instances when a foreign artist can legally perform in the US on a visitor visa—regardless of whether or not the artist is paid or tickets are sold.) In order to obtain the necessary visa, someone in the US—such as the presenter or the artist’s US-based manager or agent—will need to file a visa petition on the artist’s behalf with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition consists of the forms, evidence, and documents required for USCIS to “approve” the artist for the requested visa. As you may imagine, USCIS also requires a petition fee. Once approved, USICS will issue an “approval notice.” The artist will then use this “approval notice” to apply for the actual visa at a US Consulate. This will involve more forms…and fees.

Depending on where the artist is from, and how much they earn, they may or may not have to pay taxes on money that they earn in the US. With some exceptions, all artists who perform in the US are subject to 30% withholding from their gross engagement fees. Then, the artist is then required to file a tax return (just like you and I), declare all payments and withholdings, claim any applicable deductions and exemptions, and seek either a full or partial refund. Alternatively, an artist can apply to the IRS in advance of his or her performance and seek a withholding deduction. As you may imagine, all withholding is reported to the IRS on a form. The artist will also need to obtain either a social security number or a taxpayer identification number. This, too, involves forms.

While this can all seem overwhelming, the good news is that everything you need to know is contained in a website: artistsfromabroad.org. Produced by the League of American Orchestras and Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and authored by FTM Arts Law, artistsfromabroad.org is the most complete and up-to-date online resource for engaging foreign guest artists and non-US arts professionals, and includes essential guidance, forms, sample documents, and useful links. Even better—the entire website has recently been fully updated, redesigned, and re-launched, making it even easier to find the information performing arts organizations and artist managers need to successfully navigate the U.S. visa and tax procedures required when engaging international artists for performances in the U.S.

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For additional information and resources on this and other legal and business issues for the performing arts, visit ftmartslaw-pc.com.

To ask your own question, write to lawanddisorder@musicalamerica.org.

All questions on any topic related to legal and business issues will be welcome. However, please post only general questions or hypotheticals. FTM Arts Law reserves the right to alter, edit or, amend questions to focus on specific issues or to avoid names, circumstances, or any information that could be used to identify or embarrass a specific individual or organization. All questions will be posted anonymously.

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THE OFFICIAL DISCLAIMER:

THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE!

The purpose of this blog is to provide general advice and guidance, not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney familiar with your specific circumstances, facts, challenges, medications, psychiatric disorders, past-lives, karmic debt, and anything else that may impact your situation before drawing any conclusions, deciding upon a course of action, sending a nasty email, filing a lawsuit, or doing anything rash!

Tags: agent, approval notice, artistsfromabroad, Brian Taylor, exceptions, ftm, Goldstein, irs, manager, necessary visa, petition fee, presenter, tax return, united states citizenship and immigration services, visa petition, visitor visa

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