Need a lawyer to look over a contract before you sign it? Are you planning on starting a nonprofit organization and need assistance with filing the paperwork? Can’t afford litigation and you need mediation services? Do you have questions about copyright issues? Need some help with Quickbooks?
While not the most glamorous aspects of the art world, these are all relevant issues which often come up in making and presenting art that Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts (TALA) deals with. Many artists have heard of TALA, but there’s also quite a few folks who don’t know what all they do and what they can do for us as artists and arts organizations. According to their website, “TALA matches low-income artists and small budget arts nonprofits with volunteer attorneys and accountants to assist with arts-related legal and financial matters.” I recently gave TALA a call and had a brief conversation with them to reacquaint myself with the organization. Below is a re-introduction to TALA for artists and arts organizations to clear up misperceptions and take advantage of some their services.
What is TALA?
We are a nonprofit organization, providing pro bono legal and accounting service to qualifying artists and arts organizations. In addition to legal and accounting services, we also offer seminars that provide legal and accounting information to help artists and nonprofits in areas of copyright, nonprofit formation, and IRS tax filing requirements, among other things.
What are some common ways that artists and arts organizations utilize TALA?
One of the most common ways TALA is utilized by artists is to review contracts and filing copyrights. For nonprofits, the majority of our work is applying for their 501c3 status by submitting the form 1023 (the form the IRS reviews to determine whether you qualify to become a nonprofit organization), as well as accounting and tax questions. We also put on informational events which a lot of people take advantage of. We also publish a newsletter which is available by email or on our website in the publications section.
In what ways is TALA underutilized?
Our tax workshops are something that more artists should know about. We host tax workshops for individual artists to explain the ways artists can file their 1040. For arts organizations we assist with 990s, changes in the filing requirement and how those changes impact arts nonprofits. Also we offer a workshop that helps nonprofits use Quickbooks to improve their recordkeeping. We emphasize Quickbooks, because it’s very user friendly, provides detailed reports and it’s becoming the standard.
What are the first steps if I would like to take advantage of TALA’s services?
The first aspect we look at before providing pro bono legal services is that the individual must be an artist— meaning the focus of their career is as an artist (ie. visual artist, dancer, musician, actor, writer); and organizations need to be arts related. Second they need to be a resident of Texas for individuals, and organizations must have their 501c3 registered in Texas because in dealing with legal issues we’re working with the Texas law. The third is income qualifications. Artists must make under $50,000 a year. Nonprofit arts organizations’ budgets must be less than $500,000 with less than $200,000 in assets. If you meet these qualifications, we encourage you to go to the website, look under services and see where you can get help. If you are interested in utilizing TALA, you should become a member and call or email if have more questions.
What are some common misperceptions of TALA?
TALA is not a law firm. It is a nonprofit and our attorneys are based throughout the state. There is a misperception that we are law firm and have attorneys in the office. We have one part-time staff attorney and we will occasionally have 1-2 legal interns. We have a network of volunteer lawyers and accountants throughout the state who we work with.
Also some believe that we provide emergency services. People often come to us when it’s a little too late, particularly as it relates to contract and copyright filing. Also we do not actually pursue litigation. Once it’s at that level we have to refer artists outside of the network. We can’t match you with a pro bono attorney for litigation.
What are some services you offer that most artists don’t know about?
Mediation was provided years ago, but because people weren’t taking advantage of this, it was stopped and relaunched a year ago. It’s a more affordable and more amenable offer to litigation. And many artists can’t afford litigation so this helps and it’s very affordable to do litigation through TALA.
Future developments of TALA?
The focus now is on an expansion of services. We currently offer services state wide, but we’re expanding the seminars to take place not only in Houston, but recently in Dallas and Austin and other cities being researched. Also TALA is always looking for volunteers because the caseload is always growing so the need for volunteers is there, particularly the need for accounting volunteers.
For more information on TALA, go to:
Call: (713) 526-4876 or