What is a Per Diem?

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  • What is a Per Diem?

    Here’s how per diems work in acting

    (By Tonya Tannenbaum)

    A per diem in acting, as in many other professions, refers to a daily allowance or stipend provided to cover an individual’s daily living expenses while they are working on a project, particularly when they are away from their usual place of residence. In the context of acting, per diems are often used for actors working on location or traveling for a production. Here’s how per diems work in acting:

    1. Daily Living Expenses:

    Per diems are intended to cover expenses related to daily living, such as meals, transportation, and incidentals. They are designed to help actors maintain their well-being and comfort while away from home.

    1. Standard Rates:

    Per diem rates can vary widely depending on the location, the production’s budget, and union or guild regulations. Rates are often set by industry standards or collective bargaining agreements. For example, in the United States, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) has established per diem rates for actors working on union productions.

    1. Payment Structure:

    Per diems are usually paid as a fixed daily amount for each day the actor is on location or away from their residence. The actor is provided this daily allowance, regardless of whether they spend the full amount or not. It’s a way to ensure that actors have funds available to cover their daily expenses.

    1. Accounting and Record-Keeping:

    Actors are generally required to keep records of their per diem expenses and may be asked to provide documentation or receipts as proof of their expenses. This is to ensure that the per diem is used for its intended purpose.

    1. Non-Taxable Income:

    Per diems are often considered non-taxable income. This means that actors don’t have to pay taxes on the per diem amount. However, there are specific regulations and limitations on what expenses can be covered by per diems, so it’s important for actors to be aware of tax guidelines.

    1. Variation by Location:

    The per diem rate can vary depending on the location of the production. Higher-cost areas may have higher per diem rates to account for increased living expenses.

    Per diems play a crucial role in supporting actors’ well-being during production, especially when they are working in different cities or countries. They help ensure that actors have the financial means to cover their daily expenses and stay focused on their work. Actors should always refer to their contracts and union or guild agreements for specific information about per diem rates, payment, and documentation requirements.

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