January 26, 2022

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Business Life

Inside Porn Stars’ Naughtiest Tax Deductions, From Sex Toys to Lube

Illustration by The Daily Beast
Illustration by The Daily Beast

Porn stars creating and selling coronavirus-themed content might want to save their receipts for the protective gear that’s required to cash in on this rising trend. Whether it’s a face mask, gloves, or a hazmat suit, if it’s a necessary business expense (which these arguably are—after all, how else will performers play up the quarantine fantasy?) it could be tax-deductible. Of course, performers would have to use different masks for running errands if they’re planning to claim the gear for those COVID-19 fetish scenes as a business expense. You see, when it comes to props, sex workers need to keep it strictly business for those tax returns. Their itemized deductions might be naughtier than most, yet still legal.

Christopher Kirk, a tax attorney and the founder of Safeword Tax Service, didn’t start off serving those in the sex-worker community. As the word-of-mouth referrals circulated from some of his kinkier clientele, his practice expanded to meet the needs of a variety of sex workers, from escorts to dominatrices, porn stars, strippers, and webcam models (though his firm still maintains a “vanilla” branch).

“I started realizing how much the community on the sexual fringes really needed good tax representation and tax work. It’s grown into a huge portion of my practice and I absolutely love it because they really need high-quality representation and someone who understands the issues they are facing,” says Kirk about his passion for serving the sex-worker community. “As an attorney, I am very aware of what goes on in the law; I keep an eye on tax court cases that come out of the tax realm to make sure that my clients are served well. It’s a different perspective than a CPA but it’s a perspective my clients appreciate.”

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Whether they’re hired as freelance contractors, gig workers or as sole proprietorships, sex workers have a unique opportunity to both invest in the tools of the trade necessary to their business and then recoup some of those costs during tax season. However, the varied demands of the business alter what can reasonably be claimed as an expense—which is why adult entertainers often rely on tax professionals for clarification.

Medical expenses are not typically considered a cost of doing business, though this becomes arguable when regular HIV/STD tests are required of porn stars every two weeks just to be eligible for work. “I take the position that it’s a business expense, especially when you look at porn performers. It’s a condition,” says Kirk. “They are not allowed on set if they don’t have current results. So instances like that I’m going to have them deduct it because it’s not only necessary, it’s a bloody condition of work.”

Escorts can reasonably deduct the cost of condoms and lube. If they’re paying for hotels where they meet clients or do a tour traveling from city to city, the cost of those hotels and travel become deductible. A professional dominatrix may deduct floggers, whips or the cost of sexual devices used to penetrate clients with. “Basically the sort of sexual equipment you might not expect, nevertheless, is going to be deductible. The reason is, taking it out of the sex work-specific description, what are we talking about? Condoms and lube—those are supplies. Floggers and dildos and canes and such, that’s equipment,” explains Kirk. “Those sorts of things are going to be deductible because they are ordinary and necessary business expenses for engaging in operation.”

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One of the biggest issues this particular clientele faces is judgment—the fear of outing themselves, or associating their real names with the illicit ways they’ve earned income. It’s enough to make many sex workers shy away from doing their taxes, even when they know better. “Some issues are negative judgment by society at large, attitudes, or preconceived notions among sex workers that they don’t need to file taxes or don’t need to report income because it was cash they were paid, but of course you have to report that income!” says Kirk. “A lot of issues I see are organizational: How do they get that information together? What is income for them? This can be anything that is received in exchange for any services or products.”

Income doesn’t always come in cash form—sometimes it masquerades as an affectionate token from a client. For example, a webcam model performing on screen, asking for tips and gifts while peeling their clothing off one layer at a time, might have to count those cam-room tips and gifts received from engaging with customers as income. “If a person is doing sex work and a regular client gives them something, a car for example, and continues to be a regular client, then I’d say that’s income. But if the person leaves the business or if the person who transfers the item is no longer a client, then that could be a gift,” offers Kirk on the differences between a gift and income earned as one. 

When filing taxes sex workers rarely call themselves out as such, preferring to use terms like “entertainer,” “consultant” or “lifestyle coach,” but one blushing glance at the list of dildos, lube, labia spreaders and whips on the itemized deductions list says it all.

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