The following section pertains more to the performer under 18 years of age or who may not yet be a legal resident of the United States. But I encourage that you read this section. AFTRA and SAG have the complete details on these regulations and the regulations may change from state to state, local to local. Always be truthful when it comes to employment.
A current valid work permit may be required and it is the actor's responsibility to obtain it. The regulations governing work permits vary from state to state and even from city to city within the same state. Always check with your Union office to be sure you know (a) if a work permit will be required and (b) how to go about obtaining one. To find where to obtain a work permit in a particular area, your best bets are the State Labor Commissioner or Department of Labor, local school superintendents' offices, film commission or Union offices. Most public high schools can provide work permits for students sixteen and over, through the work experience or career counselor.
THE "COOGAN LAW"
Some states have adopted legislation which allows a judge to specify a certain amount or percentage of a minor's earnings to be set aside in a blocked trust for the minor under certain circumstances. The most well-known of these laws is California's "Coogan Law," named after Jackie Coogan, child star of silent pictures, who made vast sums of money as a child, only to discover upon reaching adulthood, that it had not been conserved. Each state which has a "Coogan Law" in effect sets the particular rules by which a judge makes a decision in this regard. The judge has sole discretion, and there are usually no predetermined amounts described in the law as being reserved for the trust. In addition, the law is not automatically in effect whenever a minor works. It is generally implemented only when the employer asks a court to affirm the minor's contract for employment.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AND COMPENSATION
Contrary to popular belief, actors do qualify for unemployment insurance or compensation benefits in many jurisdictions. However, since the professional performer is relatively uncommon in most places, chances are that you will need to investigate your eligibility very carefully. For the most part, child performers should not be treated differently than adult performers, and so, if performers qualify for unemployment benefits in your state, do not hesitate to file a claim on behalf of your child; be persistent about demanding it. Remember, the employers have paid the assessment which provides your child's coverage. Claiming unemployment compensation is not charity or a handout; it is money to which you are legally entitled. In California, a booklet called Actor's Guide to California Unemployment Benefits is available through SAG.
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a person has a disability if s/he has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, performing manual tasks. A person also is considered to have a disability if s/he has a record of a substantially limiting impairment or is regarded as having a substantially limiting impairment.
In accordance with the SAG/AFTRA Commercials and Television and Theatrical Film Contracts, wheelchair accessibility is required wherever feasible at all audition and performing sites. Under the Commercials Contract, the Producer is required to provide a qualified interpreter at auditions and throughout the engagement if the character is described as deaf. If the character is described as blind, scripts are to be supplied in advance. The Television and Theatrical Film Contracts abide by the ADA's provisions, therefore requiring the performer or Union on his/her behalf to notify the Producer or his/her representative of the need for an interpreter or advance script. For further information, do not hesitate to call the SAG or AFTRA affirmative action administrators.
The Tax Reform Act of 1986 has made major changes in the way the income (earned and unearned) is taxed. Actors are urged to consult the Internal Revenue Service or a tax professional (preferably one familiar with the entertainment industry) before attempting to file a tax return. Also obtain a copy of IRS Publication 17 (it's free) and read carefully those sections dealing with record keeping and the substantiation of deductions.
Some locals and branches sponsor VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs to help Union members in preparing their tax returns (free of charge). You may want to check to see if there is a VITA program in your area.
Always be sure to fill out a W-4 form when you work. Be aware that the IRS may fine you for underwithholding (and will not pay you interest on overwithholding!). Check with your accountant or tax professional to make sure you are filling out the W-4 form in the way that benefits you best. Because of the uncertain nature of work in the entertainment industry, you may want to re-file your W-4 form with each employer one or more times during the year, depending on changes in your anticipated yearly income.
The Tax Reform Act of 1987 requires everyone five years of age or over to obtain a Social Security number. If you have not applied for one you should do so immediately since processing may take several weeks and you cannot be paid without one.
By law, all employees must now complete the one-page I-9 Form (Employment Eligibility Verification) and must present documentation confirming their right to work in the United States. Generally speaking, two pieces of identification are required, one from List B and one from List C. As an alternative, any single document from List A may be used. Acceptable documents are listed below.
United States Passport
Certificate of United States Citizenship. (INS form N-560 or N-561)
Certificate of Naturalization. (INS Form N-550 or N-570)
Unexpired foreign passport which contains employment authorization
Alien Registration Receipt Card (INS Form 1-151 ) or Resident Alien Card (INS Fomm 1-551), provided that it contains a photograph of the bearer.
Temporary Resident Card. (INS Form 1-688)
Employment Authorization Card. (INS Form 1-688A)
For individuals 16 years of age or older
State-issued driver's license or state-issued identification card containing a photograph. If the driver's license or identification card does not contain a photograph, identifying information should be included, such as name, date of birth, sex, height, color of eyes, and address.
School identification card with a photograph Voter's registration card United States Military card or draft record Identification card issued by federal, state or local government agencies Military dependent's identification card Native American tribal documents United States Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card, Driver's license issued by a Canadian government authority.
For individuals under age 16 who are unable to produce one of the documents above:
School record or report card
Clinic, doctor or hospital record
Daycare or nursery school record
Work permit issued by any government agency
Social Security number card, other than one which has printed on its face "not valid for employment purposes."
An original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a state, county, or municipal authority bearing an official seal.
Unexpired INS employment authorization
Unexpired re-entry permit authorization (INS Form 1-327)
Unexpired Refugee Travel Document. (INS Form 1-571)
Certification of Birth issued by the Department of State. (Form FS-545)
Certification of Birth Abroad issued by the Department of State. (Form DS-1350)
United States Citizen Identification Card. (INS Form 1-197)
Native American tribal documents
Identification Card for use of Resident Citizen in the United States. (INS Form 1-179)