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To Tarot, Or Not To Tarot? Part Two (of Coins)

kitty tarot

One of the tarot books I purchased some years back is Professional Tarot: the Business of Reading, Consulting, and Teaching, by Christine Jette.  This is an outstanding book, not just from the perspective of someone looking to become a tarot professional but anyone considering opening up a small consulting business.  I desparately wish Jette would do a second edition, because this book was originally published in 2004, and in the decade following, there’s been a lot of changes, especially in technology, that directly affect the person looking to hang out their tarot shingle.  It would be interesting to hear her advice.

Anyhow, one of the points that Jette makes is that if you’re going to run a tarot business, you need to be an actual business.  That means getting a business license, tax ID number,  setting up an accounting system, having a place of business and a business phone number/email/web site, etc.  So out of curiosity, I looked to see what was involved in getting a business license as a tarot reader.

Boy, howdy.  Let’s first start with what the law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky has to say:

 231.110 Conduct prohibited on premises.

No person who has been granted a permit shall allow:

(1) Drunken, disorderly, or boisterous persons, or persons of lewd or lascivious reputation to congregate in or about the premises;

(2) People to congregate there for immoral or unlawful purposes or to permit any man or woman who are not married to each other to occupy any cabin, cottage, or secreted room or place from which the view of the public is excluded;

(3) The premises to be used as a place of assemblage or entertainment at later hours than those which are stated in the permit or recorded on the order book of the county judge/executive;

(4) Engaging in fortune-telling at any location except that specifically stated in his permit;

(5) Engaging in fortune-telling without first posting in a conspicuous place, both inside and outside the premises at which he is authorized to engage in fortune-telling, and without first filing with the county clerk of the county in which the premises are located, a schedule showing in detail the fees charged for readings, predictions, and services of any nature.

Effective: June 17, 1978

(Emphasis mine)

A “place of entertainment”, by the way, is defined by commonwealth law as follows :

…a roadhouse, place offering intoxicating or nonintoxicating drinks for sale, tourist camp or place of public entertainment at which people assemble to eat, drink, dance, bathe, or engage in any game or amusement, or any place having therein or thereon any person engaging in the practice of being a medium, clairvoyant, soothsayer, palmist, phrenologist, spiritualist, or like activity, or one who, with or without the use of cards, crystal ball, tea leaves, or any other object or device, engages in the practice of telling the fortune of another; but this last clause shall not be construed to apply to persons pretending to tell fortunes as part of any play, exhibition, fair or amateur show presented or offered by any religious, charitable, or benevolent institution. It shall not mean a private home at which bona fide guests are entertained, drive-in theaters, places of business conducted only as filling stations for motor vehicles or grocery stores, nor transient or temporary entertainment such as circuses, carnivals and county fairs.

So it looks like that I might be able to do what was suggested to me, which was read cards at bars for tips, so long as  I make it very clear that I’m doing this “for entertainment purposes only”.    It also looks that, if I wish, I could do readings out of my home, or go to someone else’s home for a reading.  And I can do it at my local science fiction convention or at a party, which would count as transient/temporary entertainment.

I was initially surprised to see law on the books regulating this sort of thing, but then I remembered that there are tons of fraudsters out there.  Just recently one of the nation’s best-selling authors, romance novelist Jude Deveraux, lost $20 million dollars to “gypsy” fortune tellers.  Reportedly, Ms. Deveraux was in an emotionally vulnerable place after both marriage troubles and the death of her young son, and that made her vulnerable to these people.  More regulation for fortune tellers, psychics, and others  of that ilk is coming down the pike, and I can’t say that I’m sorry to hear it.  So if I’m going to do this, I’d best be in compliance.

The Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Revenue Commission is in charge of collecting permit fees for fortune teller permits (unless I’m considered outside the city limits, in which case I go to the County Clerk’s office) as per their latest info on their web page.  But I also found this, effective 1993, which seems to indicate that I would  pay $200 to the County Clerk.  That price has probably changed, since it’s from twenty years ago.  And given the location of my home, I might technically be considered in Shively, which has a different procedure, too.

It’s interesting to see the variation around the state: 

  • Just out of curiosity, I checked to see what it would be to be licensed in my hometown, and discovered that the city of Berea charges a fee of $200 a day to license fortune tellers.  I don’t know if that’s because fortune tellers are seen as itinerant (only coming in with circuses and such), or if someone in the history of the city got scammed, or if the city’s trying to discourage fortune tellers in general.  Regardless, this explains why there were  no fortune tellers near where I grew up. 
  • In Madison County, KY, you might be able to dodge the Berea regulation by putting “for entertainment purposes only” all over the place, but in Richmond (twelve miles from Berea), you apparently have to get an entertainment license, like the sort that exotic dancers get.  If I’m reading the city’s ordinances correctly, that’s only $25.
  • Frankfort, KY apparently charges $1,500.00 for a fortune-telling business license, which is $500 more than what’s charged to convention centers and hotels. 
  • In Hendersonville, fortune tellers are banned outright, but that may no longer be applicable in light of recent federal rulings.

The whole banning of fortune tellers is interesting, given the First Amendment issues that surely entails.  On the one hand, if you’re going to ban people who are in the business of making predictions about the future, then you’d have to ban weathermen, doctors offering a prognosis, and anyone involved in the stock market.  On the other hand…Jude Deveraux.  An appeals court has come up with a decent compromise, I think (full decision here).

English: A fortune telling storefront on the b...

English: A fortune telling storefront on the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m digressing.  Getting back to my potential business, any business  permit would, of course, require to know my place of business.  Um.  Not sure.  I was thinking about being a roaming reader, as it were, going where I was asked to go.  Will have to dig around on that.  I guess my home would be my base of operations, though, so I’m assuming zoning laws will apply.

Advertising is another thing Jette covers, though to be honest, she’s out of date here.  Craigslist would be the first place I’d put an ad, and then I’d look at networking with the New Age Shops around town.  To be honest, my approach to tarot might not be what they’re looking for, but it’s worth a shot.

Jette also talks about having a tarot code of ethics explaining what a customer can (and cannot) expect from you as a tarot reader.  That’s one I’m already working on, seeing how my specific view of tarot is probably different from the bog-standard reader.  I’ve already decided that I won’t predict the future or do third-party readings, and of course I would never offer medical/legal/financial advice.  I’ve been looking at the tarot code of ethics for different readers, and they’ve all got some interesting ideas.

As I was rooting around, I found this Tarot Business In A Box. I’m not sure about this–I already do sales for a living and have a good idea of how to market myself online, which seems to be mostly what she’s covering.  It’s the practical side–the accounting, the taxes, the licenses–that I’m mostly concerned with.

I dunno…maybe I just need to start slow and do some readings around town.  I still need to get fully comfortable with the cards anyway.

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3 thoughts on “To Tarot, Or Not To Tarot? Part Two (of Coins)

  1. Hi there! I noticed you linked to my site so I moseyed over here to check out your stuff. Great blog!

    Here are a few thoughts in answer to your question: “It’s the practical side–the accounting, the taxes, the licenses–that I’m mostly concerned with.”

    1. Accounting: find a system that works for you. I prefer old fashioned spread sheets that I do by hand. (I also prefer doing that for my appointment calendar – although I am tech savvy, I do like to be old skool on some stuff!). There are plenty of great computer bookkeeping systems that work well. Mint is free and very basic but there is also Quicken, which a lot of people swear by. Ultimately, you’ll have to poke around to see what appeals to you.

    2. Taxes: I highly recommend having an accountant do your taxes to avoid any problems. It’s worth every nickel – an accountant will look out for you and keep you on the straight and narrow. Because tarot work is a “fringe career”, I recommend picking an accountant who errs on the side of conservative – I don’t like people who play loose and fast with the rules. You’ll want to be setting aside 15% of your income for self employment tax. That’s the one that will be your biggest issue. Paying quarterly will solve your issues. Depending on how much you make, at the end of the year your accountant will estimate what your taxes will be next year and you pay the estimated taxes quarterly. If you make more or less the next year, then he’ll adjust your quarterly tax payments for the following year as needed.

    3. Licenses: it’s different in every state so you’ll need to do your research which it seems you are. In general, you’ll want a basic business license, a DBA (Doing Business As) license if you use a name other than your own, , a sellers permit if you are selling objects in addition to your readings, a BOP (business owner’s insurance policy) or extra home insurance if you see people in your home. And before you get any of that – decide if you are a sole proprietor or an LLC.

    I hope that points you in the right direction! Good luck – the universe needs more legit readers who up their pro game. :)


    • Theresa, thank you so much for your comment! That really gives me a good idea of what to look for, and what to expect.

      I think I’ll make the idea of starting a tarot business a long-term goal. Like I said about, I’m still getting entirely comfortable with all of the cards, and I want to be able to handle the larger spreads (like, ten cards or more) before I consider launching an actual business. The more I ponder it, the more I feel like starting a business would biting off more than I can chew at this point. But it is nice to have a preliminary understanding of such an enterprise works.

      What I think I’ll do is read at some of the local sci-fi conventions–there’s one coming up at the end of July–just for tips, simple three-card spreads. Then I’ll re-evaluate my skill set and re-consider moving forward with a business.

      Thank you again!

  2. You’re welcome!

    Btw, your assessment of that book by Christina Jette is correct – great book but woefully out of date with the modern world. You may want to consider Fortune Stellar by Christiana Gaudet if you are looking for a different perspective.


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