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Music Industry Pushes Lame Duck Congress to Pass Tax-Deductible Recordings Bill

Music Industry Pushes Lame Duck Congress to Pass Tax-Deductible Recordings Bill thumbnail

Advocates representing a wide cross-section of the music industry are again urging Congress to pass the Help Independent Tracks Succeed (HITS) Act, the long-simmering legislation that would provide an extra tax break to musicians, technicians and producers for recording sessions.

“Prior to the conclusion of the 117th Congress, the American music community calls on you to support American music creation that is still reeling from the pandemic by passing into law the bipartisan and bicameral Help Independent Tracks Succeed (HITS) Act,” reads a Nov. 15 letter sent to Congressional leadership, co-signed by 23 groups across the business.

The Recording Academy, which made the bill a major focus of its Grammys on the Hill event in April as well as its annual District Advocate Day in October, continues to lead the charge. During the latter event, held on Oct. 6, approximately 2,000 Academy members participated in lobbying for the HITS Act and other music industry priorities at nearly 200 U.S. congressional offices in Washington, D.C.

“Our hope is that we can get it done here before the 117th comes to a close because we have a lot of bipartisan support, bicameral support [in the] House and Senate,” says Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. “I really feel like this is something we should be able to get done and we’re hoping we can get done in the next few weeks.”

The HITS Act would allow musicians, technicians and producers to deduct 100% of recording expenses up to $150,000 on their taxes in the year they’re incurred. That’s a change from the current law, which requires music creators to amortize those expenses over the economic life of a sound recording, a period that usually ranges between three and four years.

The bipartisan bill was first introduced in the House on July 31, 2020 (followed by a companion bill in the Senate on Dec. 3, 2020), though it failed to pass as part of the two pandemic relief packages or as part of the $3.5 billion budget reconciliation package known as Build Back Better, which was ultimately halved and renamed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 before being signed into law in August. Now, with only a month to go before the changeover to a new, split Congress — Democrats will retain control of the Senate while Republicans will control the House of Representatives — advocates are hoping the bill can finally, successfully make it through the gauntlet as part of a must pass bill during the last few weeks of the year.

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“[During] the lame duck period with these must pass bills, if there’s any kind of tax language in there or any kind of economic language in there that ties in with this, we’re really hopeful it will get in this time around,” says Richard James Burgess, president and CEO of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), which has long served as a key advocate for the legislation.

In the entertainment realm, music production is an outlier in terms of taxation; film, TV and live theater productions already enjoy a 100% first-year deduction. The HITS Act would simply apply the same standard to music, Burgess says, while also encouraging future music creation: “I think if anybody needs it, it’s musicians that need it really badly. It affects independent musicians and independent artists and independent labels probably more than anybody else because they have less bandwidth financially. The idea of getting $150,000 per project [that can be] written off against your taxes in the year that you incurred it, could really make a difference between being able to make another record next year or not.”

Burgess adds that the bill won’t just affect musicians and producers but trickle down to other parts of the industry and the greater economy. “Every artist that makes a record, that has a knock on effect to many, many other musicians and ancillary workers in the music industry,” he says. “Getting these kinds of tax benefits will make a difference across the board.”

While Burgess and Mason jr. were both relatively confident HITS could make it through the next Congress given the bill’s bipartisan support, they’ve clearly grown impatient on behalf of creators, many of whom lost income during the early stages of the pandemic. After more than two years of disappointment, Mason jr. puts it in stark terms: “Yes, it could get passed next year, but…I don’t think we should continue to have it laid off and cut out of bills. This is something that’s important for us coming out of COVID. We’ve seen this community suffer enough.”

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You can read the full Nov. 15 letter below.

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McCarthy, and Leader McConnell: The 117th Congress has witnessed significant bipartisan and bicameral accomplishments that have benefitted American workers, families, and consumers, and levelled the playing field so some important domestic industries can grow. Prior to the conclusion of the 117th Congress, the American music community calls on you to support American music creation that is still reeling from the pandemic by passing into law the bipartisan and bicameral Help Independent Tracks Succeed (HITS) Act (H.R. 1945/ S. 752).

The HITS Act is a low-cost and commonsense modification to existing U.S. tax law that will incentivize the production of new sound recordings by allowing qualified productions to deduct 100% of their costs upfront. With an annual deduction limit of $150,000, the bill is designed and tailored to specifically incentivize independent creators and labels to produce new music, sparking important creative investments in countless music small businesses across the country. This targeted approach makes the HITS Act a fiscally responsible investment in the American creative economy.

The HITS Act also brings much-needed parity to the tax code for all creative industries. Currently, under Sec. 181 of the Internal Revenue Code, qualified film, television, and live theatrical productions may elect to fully deduct new production costs in the year they are incurred. Music production, which occurs in every state and congressional district, deserves the same treatment. Instead of being able to fully deduct production expenses in the year they occur, independent recording artists must currently amortize production expenses for tax purposes over the full economic life of a sound recording. For small creators, this timing difference slows down their reinvestment in new projects that can fuel growth. The HITS Act harmonizes the tax code and ensures that all the major creative industries are treated similarly.

As you consider end-of-year legislation, the music community strongly urges you to pass the HITS Act. It represents exactly the type of bipartisan, bicameral, and non-controversial economic investment that Congress should be proud to support. Passage of H.R. 1945/S. 752 is a smart and simple step that will make a lasting difference for countless independent music creators and music small businesses.

On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of music makers and music businesses across the country, thank you for your consideration.

Signed,

American Association of Independent Music

Artists Rights Alliance

ASCAP

Black Music Action Coalition

Broadcast Music Inc.

Christian Music Trade Association

Digital Media Association

Future of Music

Global Music Rights

Gospel Music Association

Music Artists Coalition

Nashville Songwriters Association International

National Independent Talent Organization

National Independent Venue Association

National Music Publishers Association

Recording Academy

Recording Industry Association of America

SAG-AFTRA

SESAC

The Society of Composers and Lyricists

Songwriters Guild of America

Songwriters of North America

SoundExchange

CC Chairman Ron Wyden, Senate Finance Committee

       Ranking Member Mike Crapo, Senate Finance Committee

       Chairman Richard Neal, House Ways and Means Committee

       Ranking Member Kevin Brady, House Ways and Means Committee

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