June 3, 2011 2 Comments
- Here’s the most ludicrous thing you’ll read all day: federal tax court judge Diane Kroupa has decidedly stated that due to documentary film’s purpose to “educate and expose,” non-fiction filmmakers may not be allowed to make a profit on their “work,” which the IRS will therefore instead consider a “hobby.” There is no ruling yet, but according to International Documentary Association executive director Michael Lumpkin (via the IDA’s magazine and website), Kroapa raised the question in an Arizona court back in March whether or not Lee Storey (“Smile ’Til It Hurts: The Up with People Story”), or any other documentary filmmaker, should be allowed to deduct business expenses accrued during production.
This is surely the scariest thing to happen to the doc community since the recent federal order for Joe Berlinger to hand over raw footage tapes from his film “Crude.” Both cases broadly kill documentary’s qualifications as journalism (the IRS allows print investigative journalists to make a profit), but this news confuses me more. If documentaries can’t be profitable, then can’t they at least have the tax benefits of a non-profit organization? And also, if they’re not allowed to make a profit, will major studios and distributors lose what minor interest they have in the form? So many questions to think about, but the only answer I keep coming up with is that Kroupa apparently needs to watch more documentaries. While it still hurts the greater consideration of docs as journalism, we need her to know docs aren’t all and only about information and awareness. [via Kartemquin Films]