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Lowensteins Staff Profile: Lynette Faulkner

Photo: Lyn Faulkner

Lowensteins Staff Profile: Lynette Faulkner

Written by: 
Fiona Gruber

Lynette Faulkner is Lowensteins’ Mother Confessor. As a senior accountant with 52 years’ experience, more than 30 of it with the present company – she started out with accountancy firm Felix Kaye which later merged with Lowenstein Sharp , later, in 2002,  to split off into Lowensteins Arts Management  – Lyn has given advice to two or even three generations of client families.

“We always kept a toy box in the office and clients would bring their kids and now those kids are clients too,” she says.

Ninety percent of her regulars are in the performing or visual arts. Even before the advent of COVID-19, most, she says were struggling. It’s the nature of the arts she adds, a group of professions with high unemployment rates and irregular work, but it’s one the Australian Tax Office understands poorly.

“I had one client being audited by the tax office and the auditor confessed she had to google a bunch of terms to do with this artist’s practice,” she says; “the ATO has no idea of the creative arts, they really are very ignorant.”

Having said that, she says there are ways an artist can minimise the tax they pay each year.

Income averaging is one, as Australian tax legislation does recognise the inconsistency of income for someone in the creative arts. Averaging out your income over a maximum of four years means no nasty spikes in any 12-month period.

“You might make money from a film one year and nothing the next or take five years to write a book; it’s similar to taxation breaks for farmers with a huge crop,” she explains.

For clients, being deemed a “Special Professional” by the ATO is one thing she says, but it’s important that you can prove you are one and give plenty of examples.

“The first things I need to know are; ‘What are your qualifications? What are your expenses? What proof do you have of occupation, including theatre programs, media coverage, exhibitions? In short anything confirming what you do’,” she says, and people in the arts, she adds, often don’t dwell on that side of life. “They’re too busy being creative.”

The impact of COVID-19 has been huge, especially in the performing arts and Lowensteins’ clients include some at the top of their professions.

“I have a client who spent 12 months creating a ballet for a 40-show run and they had to close after one night, she says. Others have had to take drastic cuts in income and many are on no contracts at all.

Another regular, a top name in musical theatre has quit the industry and retrained as a real estate agent, she adds.

The repercussions across the arts have been enormous. Alongside the career crash experienced by a creative, there’s the knock-on effect for everyone whose work is linked to theirs.

“A visual artist creates work on average for eight others”, she explains; “framers, couriers, sellers of art materials, writers, gallery owners.”

As the ripples of hardship spread wider, the need for financial advice is as urgent as ever.

Lyn’s only aim is to be as helpful as possible.

“I like to think I’m their friend as well as their accountant.”