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IRS Targets Documentarians as “Hobbyists”

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This is disturbing news. Apparently, the IRS is going after documentary filmmakers and forcing them to prove that they are making films as a career and not just a hobby. In other words, if a person spends days, weeks, months, years writing grants, doing fundraising campaigns, shooting in all kinds of situations (many of them grueling), editing under tight deadlines and then trying to sell and distribute their product for a profit, that might be deemed a hobby by the government if they fail.

Paul Devlin has the complete story here at


  1. Scott Greene says:

    I just read director Paul Devlin’s excellent article about his Income Tax battle and filmmaker Lee Storey’s Income Tax battle.
    In both instances, all they wanted to do was make films.
    But instead they ended up spending countless amounts of money in addition to endless hours under horrific stress trying to prove that the movies they make are a business and not a hobby.

    This is an utter and total waste of time that only exists because of this country’s current, confusing and mind numbing Income Tax laws.

    If the Income Tax system used by this country with all of its complexity and contradictions was actually simplified or totally gotten rid of and replaced with any number of other very simple tax systems (Flat tax, Fair tax, etc.), then both these two individuals could have avoided the stressful, expensive and time consuming tax audits that they have endured.

    To pour your life savings into filmmaking that does not make you a profit (you actually lose money) and then come to find out that the government auditors claim you owe them thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on top of your losses, not to mention the legal fees you now have to pay to defend yourself, well this is not a tax system that can sustain itself too much longer.

    The main thing I got out of reading the article is that there are major problems existing in our current Income Tax code. And the solution does not lie in continuing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars battling it, instead the solution lies in doing away with the 75,000 page tax code and then simplifying the system. I hope both Mr. Devlin and Ms. Storey realize that that is what has to happen next if they do not want to have others end up in similar messes to the one they found themselves in.

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