Self Employment Tax Deductions for Photographers

Last updated September 23, 2020

Being a photographer is a gratifying profession, and if you work from home as a freelance photographer, you get some benefits beyond gratification.

That’s because one of the bonuses of running your own business is the ability to take advantage of tax deductions for photographers.

Why care about photography tax deductions?

There are many potential tax deductions for photographers that can help you at tax time. Some of these photographer tax write-offs may seem small, but they can add up quickly, making them worthwhile to track.

After all, each time you write off an expense, you lower your self employed taxable income. That means less tax paid, helping replace the money you spent on your business and putting it back in your pocket.

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Tax deductions for photographers

Here’s a list of the most common expenses that photographers can deduct from their taxes. It’s good to consult with an expert because as with anything financial or tax-related, there is some nuance to what and how much can actually be used as a write off.

💲   Upfront expenses
When you set up your business any equipment you will use for more than a year is counted as a capital expense. Examples are cameras and tripods.
🖥   Other electronics
Your computer and other electronics like a keyboard, printer, monitor, and mouse are all tax deductions for photographers.
🏡   Home office
If you use some part of your home exclusively as your office, you can deduct a portion of expenses like rent, utilities and mortgage interest.
🏛   Studio or other photography venue
You may also have a studio or storage space, or an office out of your home, in which case you can deduct costs like rent, utilities, and insurance.
🚗   Vehicle costs
You can deduct vehicle costs like mileage, gas, parking, tolls, repairs, maintenance, a portion of car insurance, and perhaps even a portion of capital expenses like a new car purchase.
✈️   Other travel expenses
If you travel to jobs, conferences or training sessions, you can deduct expenses like airfare, train, and bus tickets.
💻   Photography software
Common photographer tax write-offs include software and computer programs like photo editing software.
💽   Other hardware & software
You may also require electronic storage for your work, like external hard drives, or storage software such as Dropbox. Photography can require a lot of storage space.
📈   Marketing and advertising
Any expense that attempts to generate business, including advertising and website hosting fees.
✏️   Office supplies
Costs of office supplies like business cards, brochures, and even pens and paper are considered tax deductions for photographers.
📚   Professional development
Conferences and classes that help you keep up with your industry are considered deductions, as are magazine subscriptions and photography books.
📜   Licensing costs
Items like business association memberships, or professional associations, as well as business licenses are all eligible expenses.
📱   Phone and internet
If you need a cell phone and internet for your work, then that’s a deductible cost.
👨‍⚖️   Sub-contractor or assistant
If you need to hire a contractor or freelancer for a project, or an editor, designer, or assistant, those costs are tax deductions for photographers.
🏥   Health insurance
Any health insurance related costs can qualify as eligible tax write-offs for photographers.
👨‍💻   Professional expertise
Costs of lawyers, accountants and other professionals that support your business could be considered tax deductions for photographers.
💵   Commissions & fees
Legal fees, payment processing fees (PayPal, Stripe, and others).
You may choose an online system instead to manage your tax filing & accounting, so a platform like Bonsai can also serve as a tax deduction.
Calculate my tax deductions

How to qualify if a photography expense is deductible or not?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the federal taxing authority, defines a business expense as being deductible if it is both ordinary and necessary. 

An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your trade or business. In the case of a photographer, an example would be a camera.

A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business. An expense does not have to be indispensable to be considered necessary. An example would be a website that profiles your photographs.

It can be overwhelming to think about all the benefits of being a self-employed photographer. We’re here to help. Maximize your tax return by learning about these tax deductions for photographers.

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What photography expenses are NOT tax deductible?

There are some expenses that cannot be used as tax deductions for photographers:

💲   Personal expenses
If your car is for business and personal use, for example, you have to divide the expense based on actual mileage for business use.
🏦   Loans that aren’t just for business
If you borrow money and use only 50% of it for business, then you can only deduct 50% of the interest as a business expense.
🚕   Cost to commute
If your office is not at home, you can’t deduct the mileage traveling to and from work.
🥯   Living expenses
You also can’t deduct family expenses or living expenses. For example, your home office deduction will be based on the square footage of the office, not the entire home.

How can I use these photography tax deductions?

There are a couple of ways you can ensure you take advantage of all the appropriate photographer tax write-offs:

   1. Use a software system like the Bonsai accounting and taxes tool.

   2. Track these deductions on your own and file your own income tax return.

   3. Hire an accountant (in which case you’ll still have to keep your own records).

Remember, you can use Bonsai's free self-employment tax calculator to estimate your quarterly taxes!

Tax Deductions for Other Self Employed Workers

Not a photographer? Find tax deductions for your specific profession below.

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