You don’t have to tell me that tax time can be dramatic.
Collecting paystubs, statements, 1099s and W2s takes a ton of coordination and time which, as you know, is always in short supply. It can be downright stressful. But sometimes tax time can be…surprising.
Just like every year, when my W-2s come in, I open each one and check it out. I’m pretty organized (spoiler alert: I love a good spreadsheet), so I’m pretty much up-to-date with my theatrical earnings. Commercial residuals can be trickier to know off the top of my head because of the different pay structures associated with each contract type. But I digress…
This year, as I was getting all my tax paperwork in, there were no surprises until I got to the paperwork for a commercial for which I’d been paid approximately $1,200. Shockingly, the W-2 was for just under $10,000. That meant that I was missing $8,700 in commercial residual payments!
Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence. In a 2018 story, The Hollywood Reporter estimated that as much as $315 Million in residuals could be going unpaid annually. Yikes!
It’s super important that you approach this situation from a CEO’s point of view. Stay professional, don’t jump to conclusions, be patient and diligent.
I immediately called the payroll company listed on my W-2 and was told by the very helpful accounting rep that commercial residual checks get lost in the mail all the time. Because they’re still using paper checks…in 2022!
So, how can you make sure all your hard-earned $$$ makes it into your pocket?
Keep scans/photos of all your contracts – all you need is your phone’s camera!
- You can create albums in your phone’s camera app or offload them onto your computer. Just make sure you know where to find them at the end of the year.
Check your end-of-year tax paperwork
- Match all your tax forms up to your paystubs/direct deposits – this doesn’t even require any math! All you have to do is match up the fields labeled “Gross.”
What if they don’t match up?
- Request a Talent Earnings Report from the payroll company listed on your W-2 along with copies of the cashed checks. You can do this by email or by phone. I called and had the info emailed to me in less than 5 minutes. Easy-peasy!
- Reach out to your reps and ask for a Client Summary Report. This will include the Gross, Net, Tax Deductions & Commissions paid.
From here, you’ll be able to see if your agency received all of your checks.
If checks are missing or unaccounted for, reach out to the payroll company and ask them to cancel any missing checks and reissue them. You can also ask your agency to reach out to payroll on your behalf.
You may still be getting your footing feeling like the badass boss that you are. Fear may sneak in because you don’t want to make waves with your agency or feel accusatory. But remember: this is business. The CEO of any other small business would feel empowered to take care of their finances and you can, too.
It’s up to you to make sure you get every cent of your badass boss paycheck. And you will be a more well-respected business person when you do!
So, what would you do with $8,700 unexpected dollars? Tell me in the comments below.