MSNBC on Tattoo Artist Profits
03:15 PM
A bunch of you have been sending me the link to this article on MSNBC today:
"In tattoo business, profits are hardly skin deep."

All I kept thinking when I read it was This is going to piss a lot of artists off who don't want the IRS looking into their books.

Aside from the most annoying of opening lines to any tattoo article [yes, yes, we know tattoos don't belong to sailors and convicts anymore!] and the word "tats" [shoot me now], these little tidbits are not going to make studio owners and tattooists happy who like to keep their business close to the vest:

"Several years ago Inc. estimated there were about 15,000 tattoo parlors in America, making somewhere north of $2.3 billion annually."

"Joe Miller, owner of Old Larimer Street Tattoo in Denver, says that he's currently taking home about $125,000 annually...He says his tattoo artist colleagues average about $50,000 a year, and a good number scrape by on less than half that."

And Scottie DeVille, owner of Th'ink Tank Tattoo in Denver, says "Since we've opened, our profits have increased about 10 percent per year. In 2008, the average hourly [rate per artist] was $120. Today the average is $150."

What do you think about artists and others in the community giving out these numbers to the press? Will the IRS crack down on tattooists? Do you think the government is already on to this? Does it matter?

Wow, Joe Miller should really learn to shut the hell up.
Definitely TMI.

When you deal in a all or nearly-all cash business, it's very easy to make money go away. I know hot dog cart guys who happily put their kids through college without hardly feeling the pinch.

It's the same with other retail businesses that work largely in cash: you make $800 in a day and claim $200 on your taxes. It's only when you start doing tattoos in a solid gold chair or pull your hot dog cart with a Ferrari that the feds should wake up and take notice. Otherwise, I see no problem with it.

Yeah, it's definitely going to piss off a lot of artists, especially the artists who operate mainly as a cash business with minimal record keeping. I can't imagine that this is under the IRS' radar though. They know this is business where it's impossible to track cash transactions. But what can they do? Start required artists to record the serial number from their disposable tubes or needles with each piece?

However, part of mainstream acceptance is playing by the rules every other business has to. Obviously artists and owners are going to be happier doing their books the way they are now, but I imagine it's going to change in the next decade. The government is going to be looking to squeeze every tax cent they can to get out of this deficit.

I'm interested in knowing whether tattooing still remains as a mainly-cash business. In NYC, almost every shop I know takes credit cards. The credit cards is where it can be tracked.

True enough about the difficulty the IRS would have tracking the cash receipts but as Zombie Dad said, there are plenty of Golden Chairs around in studios like multiple large screen TVs and computers, expensive cars parked outside ...

I'm sure when tattoos hit the 'mainstream' the IRS was happily looking into all the shop profits. I'd imagine most legitimate shops keep pretty immaculate records for just such an occasion. I think in any cash business there is 'slush', but that makes up for the expense of not having a medical or retirement package, paid holidays and vacations, no sick days, etc...

For those who have unreported cash income, buying tattoos is the perfect way to spend it. Even without cash income, I always pay cash for tattoos because I dislike the paper trail.

Tattooing is going to be a cash business for the foreseeable future.

If tattoo artists start going to jail for for tax evasion, the art of joint-style tattooing will advance dramatically.

Regardless of whether you're in a cash business or not, I think it is always unclassy to publicly declare how much money you are making (unless you are in public office).

cant i just do art w/o being hassled by the government?!?

I see this article as just another bi-product of tattooing becoming in popular in the public sphere... all of the trade-secrets are getting leaked by someone or another these days... tattoo reality shows, how-to books, easy availability of (cheap) equipment... why not the financial side too? It's happened to all other sub/counter-cultures like hot-rodding, motorcycle building, rock n' roll... I'm reminded of my favorite quote from The Matrix: "That, Mr. Anderson, is the sound of inevitability..."

It's merely a symptom of people wanting to know EVERYTHING about something they consider fascinating or intriguing. Besides, there can't be this kind of popularity (and financial gain) in a business, without journalists poking around and members of that business field "telling all".

I know Ohio already has a state tax on services (including tattooing and hair styling), and I am sure it is similar elsewhere. So in many areas, artists and shops are already being watched like hawks.

Unfortunately, this industry can not grow to the level of popularity that it has (and will continue to grow to) without the government getting involved. That's just the way of things in this country.

There is also a double-edged sword here too: if we all want to get rid of the dreaded kitchen magician and scally-wag scratcher (and I think we all do), there HAS TO BE more government involvement... we can't realistically expect the government to over-see and regulate one area and ignore the large sums of money being raked in.

Or maybe I'm wrong... I dunno... That's just my two cents.


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