By Charalampos Theopemptou
During the pandemic lockdowns, I got involved with a group of artists trying to secure some money for all the artists that they were prevented from working during that time.
Focusing only on artists that make their living solely from their art, I learned from that experience that the state doesn’t know who they are.
Contrary to what happens in central Europe, I found that there are no provisions either for tax or social security contributions for their style of work and pattern of earnings.
Let’s consider the hypothetical case of a self-employed theatre actor. A typical situation would be for instance to find a job in a play for a few months and for the rest of the year be unemployed.
Or even a self-employed painter who spends a year or more working for her next exhibition. After two years she is ready, the exhibition is successful, and she makes €25,000 from selling her works.
For self-employed artists, what little money they earn must last long enough until they create the next body of work to sell.
What does the state expect from these artists?
First of all, anyone earning more than €19,000 a year must pay taxes. So, the painter above, although she needs the money for the years until her next exhibition, she has to pay tax on the extra €6,000 for the one year she made €25,000.
Also, both the actor and the painter must pay their social insurance contributions every three months, from money they need to survive until the next time they have an income.
In order to provide a solution to these problems, we need to:
- Identify the real self-employed artists through a legal screening process.
- Make sure that there is a scheme in place that will secure them a decent pension.
- Change the income tax law to fit their pattern of earnings.
To identify the genuine artists living off their work, we need to have an agency, a committee or an NGO for each artform e.g. theatre, music, dance, audio visual arts etc, that will set criteria for joining and prepare a registry.
Register the self-employed members who will be eligible for government support in paying their social insurance contributions or have a separate pension scheme like all government and semi-government organisations have had for years.
Those aware of the problems that artists face will testify that the problem is a serious one.
Through the protests organised during the pandemic lockdown and the meetings that went on afterwards, we made sure that government is aware of this.
In a recent question through the parliamentary procedure, I received an answer from the minister of labour and social insurance that the government will implement large scale changes to the social security system by June 2023.
Charalampos Theopemptou is the president of the Cyprus Green Party – Citizens Cooperation