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Tax-free grants and prizes

What's the situation?

"If you win at Randwick, that's not taxed. If you win the Miles Franklin, that's taxed. And that's Australia still." David Marr, ASA National Writers' Congress 2015

In 2015, a Macquarie University survey revealed that the average income earned by Australian authors from their creative work is just $12,900. In 2014, Australian author Richard Flanagan revealed that he had been contemplating working in a Tasmanian mine after completing his prize-winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, such was his financial situation at that time. It was only winning the Booker Prize that allowed him to continue his vocation as an author.

According to the 2015 Macquarie University survey, nearly half of all authors supplement their work with a job unrelated to their writing, and 37.3% are supported by their partner’s income. Authors and illustrators often rely on money from literary prizes and grants to buy time away from their "day-jobs" to produce creative work.

However, despite the clear difficulty of earning a meaningful income from a writing career, literary awards, prizes and grants continue to be subject to personal income tax. The result is that the value of these prizes is significantly decreased.

What should change?

The Prime Minister's Literary Awards are already awarded free from tax. We at the ASA believe this concession should be extended to all major literary prizes and grants. Such a change would cost the government little, while the benefit for Australia's authors and illustrators would be significant.

What's the ASA doing?

In 2016, this important issue for authors did, unfortunately, have to take a back-seat to more pressing concerns about the parallel importation of books and "fair use" copyright exceptions. However, the ASA's lobbying efforts in these areas have helped us to build many positive relationships with federal MPs and Senators on all sides of government. As a result, the ASA stands in good stead to get tax-free grants and prizes onto the political agenda for 2017.

What can you do?

Consider writing to your local MP and Senator about the importance of tax-free grants and prizes for authors. Federal politicians are swamped by emails so if you can do it, a letter will pack more of a punch. Let them know what tax-free literary prizes and grants would mean for you in your professional practice as an author or illustrator. Invite them to speak with you or the ASA further on the issue. Ask them to take action by introducing tax-free literary prizes and grants into their party's arts policy.

Contact your MP and Senator

And, if you haven't already, consider joining the ASA. The ASA's lobbying efforts in Canberra would not be possible without our members' support. The more voters we can show we represent, the clearer our voice will be heard by the politicians with the power to make change.

Join today

Alternatively, if you're already a member or prefer to contribute without joining the ASA, you can donate to our Endowment Fund. Donations to the Endowment Fund go directly towards supporting the ASA to lobby and campaign for the rights and professional interests of authors and illustrators.

Donate now

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© 2017 Australian Society of Authors (ASA)