Friday, April 01, 2011

Poll Results: Annual Spend on Art Materials

The Making A Mark Poll for March examined annual expenditure on art materials (including art equipment and technology).  It asked how much do you spend per annum and how much do you claim against tax due.   

Rather less artists than usual responded to the two polls (plus a poll within a poll about treatment of expenses for tax), however the results have been fascinating.
This month the Making A Mark Poll is asking you to 'fess up!!!

How much do you spend on art materials, art equipment and technology to support your art habit in a year?
The headlines are:
  • USA artists spend much more on art materials/equipment & technology when compared to UK artists
  • USA artists claim more of their expenditure on art materials against tax

The big imponderable is whether or not the ratio of professional artists to those who create art for enjoyment rather than as a career was the same in both polls.  The answer is I simply don't know.  I'm guessing it's possible that more professional artists responded to the USA poll.

For the record 37 people responded to the UK poll (in sterling£) and 32 people responded to the USA poll (in US$).  In the charts below, the value of the spend (in £ and $) was made roughly equivalent so the charts are in fact directly comparable in terms of the total sum spend in a year.

In the UK, there are more people spending less on art materials.   Over a third spend less than £300 per annum.  The chart shows a decline in the percentage of artists spending on art materials & technology as the total spend grows
  • The most:   27% spend between £150 - £300
  • The least:  8% spend more than £3,000

By way of a COMPLETE contrast, this is the chart for USA spend on art materials and equipment.  More than 57% spend more than $1,000 pa (which is about £600)
  • The most:  22% spend more than $5,000 / 22% spend between $1,000 and $2,000
  • The least:  6% spend less than $250. 

Much fewer artists completed the question about tax but a higher proportion of USA artists answered the question about tax
  • UK: 12 respondents (32% of those responding) 
  • USA: 16 respondents (50% of those responding).  
That might have been due to the poll design as my poll usually only allow one answer - however I was trying to avoid having four polls but wanted to have the tax question as well as the annual spend.

The biggest difference comes from the different attitudes to tax and completing tax forms.
  • 69% of USA artists claim most of their expenses against tax and only 25% claim not to do tax forms
  • in the UK only 25% of artists claim most of the expenses against tax.
The UK gives the impression that people don't quite understand what to do about tax, while most of the American artists are busy claiming expenses against tax due and filling in tax forms.

Thus we get the the chicken and the egg (which came first) part of these poll results:
  • Do American artists make sure they claim against tax because they spend more? 
  • Or do they spend more because they know they can claim against tax?  
  • What do you think?
Do you find any of the results surprising?

Do you have an explanation for any of the figures?  

I'd love to hear from you - please leave a comment on this post below.

Note that the initial post POLL: How much do you spend on your art habit annually? provided contextual data for USA spend via the NAMTA Survey- Artists and Art Materials 2009

I'll be announcing the Making A Mark Poll for April 2011 on Sunday.


  1. I have to wonder how much of the US $ amounts include framing? - which is extortionately expensive in the US, opposed to the UK where we still have a lot of access to local and independent framers. Just a thought.

  2. What a good point Tina - I hadn't thought of that! I know I've heard a lot of American artists complain about framing costs plus know that there seems to be a much bigger market for ordering frames from afar in the USA

  3. I've changed the Making A Mark Poll for April - thanks to Tina! :)

    Check out the side column....

  4. The UK spend looks like a normal distribution, but the US doesnt. I would say you need more people taking part for it to be an accurate reflection on spending patterns. That said I have no idea why US spending seems to be more. Perhaps there were more professional artists taking part from US. Are the people who 'dont do tax forms' artists who are not full time because dont you have to do a tax return if you are self-employed? That said it might explain why UK spending seems lower as there will be fewer professional artists in your poll. I would have thought most artists would claim everything they could as expenses. If not perhaps US tax assessments are easier to understand and complete!


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