Written by: FFT Webmaster | June 13th, 2011
The International Documentary Association (IDA) is a non-profit organization that promotes nonfiction filmmakers, and is dedicated to increasing public awareness for the documentary genre. The organization has weighed in on a recent Arizona court ruling on the film SMILE TIL IT HURTS: THE UP WITH PEOPLE STORY by Lee Storey. In March, Arizona judge Diane Kroupa questioned whether a documentary could be “for profit,” since by its nature it is designed “to educate and expose,” and she invited the parties to present case law on the issue. The opinion came in a case in which the IRS argued that filmmaker Lee Storey could not deduct business expenses pertaining to her film because the primary purpose of her film (and by inference all documentary films) is to educate and expose, not to make profit, and that therefore documentary filmmaking is a not-for-profit activity. The IRS believes that if the person has no intent to make a profit, then the activity is a “hobby.” Therefore, they claim that Storey owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes and penalties for the business deductions she took. The IDA is taking the position that this could have a serious impact on documentary filmmaking in America. The IDA has filed an amicus brief in the case, urging the US Tax Court to recognize that the production of a documentary film is, at its core, a “for profit” business such that business expenses are deductible for tax purposes.