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Hannah Cole: The Story of Sunlight Tax

I'm Hannah Cole. I've been a working artist for over 15 years, and in my art career I've discovered that the real magic of being an artist is being part of the artist community. I owe everything good in my art career to my fellow artists--and that goes from tangible career things like introductions to curators & gallerists-- to skills like learning how to write well and create a good website.

I created Sunlight Tax because of the need among artists for good tax and financial information. ⁠Artists are doing the empathy-building work that will fix our broken world. But when artists quit, the number one reason is money. If I can stop artists from quitting, I get to help that mission. Even better if I can teach artists to have a healthier relationship with money--one that acknowledges that their work is often done for reasons beyond money, while at the same time recognizing that money is important. It gives you power, stability, longevity, and the ability to rest.

My flagship program, Money Bootcamp, is a year-long membership program that teaches artists everything they need to know to have a healthy financial picture and stay on top of their taxes. It's not just about money itself but it unpacks the toxic attitudes creative people often carry about money, and it's about seeing and valuing artists for the powerful work they do in the world. ⁠ ⁠ So that's why Sunlight Tax exists. I'm here to give back to the artist community that has given so much to me. Everything I do at Sunlight Tax is to help my fellow artists feel their worth, step into their power, and make bigger bolder work that has a massive impact.⁠

So how did a professional painter become a tax accountant? I had a dayjob at a design agency in New York, that I loved. But when the company finally got it's finances documented, it realized it wasn't making any money, and I the entire team were let go. Out of a job, and with a tiny baby in expensive New York, I decided to go back to school for accounting, so I could help artists, designers and small creative businesses never go through the pain I had been through, and feel valued for their work at the same time.

When I was training in accounting I worked at two different tax practices in New York City. This is what I saw: a profitable tax business is one that doesn't answer questions. There's a lot of work involved in a tax return, and it's gruelling and low profit. Yet most clients believed (mistakenly) that they were being taken care of in a more holistic sense - that the fee would get them some advice, strategy and guidance. This is not generally the case - tax advice, strategy and guidance are all separate services, with a high price tag.⁠

What I knew then, as a young accountant in those firms, is that there are a lot of things in the tax code designed to help people like this save for big things like health care, education and retirement.

Yet if that tax preparer didn't stop and explain how those things worked, the client would never even know they existed, and miss out on decades of growth opportunity.⁠ I got yelled at when I would take an extra 10 minutes to explain to the client how IRAs work & encourage them to re-budget for one. Because I was slowing down the process of getting the tax return finished.⁠ ⁠ When I started Sunlight Tax, I vowed to operate differently.

This is why I don't take clients for tax returns only. I built a program (Money Bootcamp) to teach people about the tax shelters and advantages that are available to them and how to use them--not just what a solo 401K is, and how a freelancer can set one up, but I even get into how to set up a basic investment strategy, since the money you put in that account you’re going to have to invest. I teach basic personal finance, investing, cash flow management, deductions for artists, year-end tax planning, how to establish healthy financial habits, and how to get rid of the stupid attitudes about money a lot of creative people accidentally developed in art school.

At Sunlight Tax, we offer free artist's tax tips on Instagram (@sunlighttax), lots of artist-centric tax and financial info on our blog (, and our flagship program, Money Bootcamp, which helps artists have a bigger more impactful career by teaching you the tax and money systems that get you from financial fear and chaos into confidence and control.

Right now, listeners of I Like Your Work can get this free artists’ tax deduction guide by going to

Thank you to Hannah Cole and Sunlight tax for sponsoring our winter exhibition, Crop of Kismet! Check out the virtual exhibition and catalog curated by Will Hutnick.

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