If you feel overwhelmed by taxes, you aren’t alone. If you don’t know how expenses work, don’t be embarrassed.  A lot of folks don’t! 

I know, you’re thinking, “I wish they actually taught us about taxes in school!” Not to be a dick, but… they did. It just didn’t mean much to you because you were a teenager, and the lessons were more historical than practical. Plus, you didn’t have to deal with taxes and expenses when you were a teenager, so you didn’t care. That shit was for adults.

Well, now we’re the adults, and it’s time to figure this shit out. The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. So, let’s start at the beginning and determine the nature of your employment.

Independent Contractor vs. Employee

The IRS’s general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done (1).

In more practical terms, if you are an employee, your employer will issue you a wage and tax statement called a W-2, which shows income you've earned from your employer, the amount of taxes your employer withheld from your paycheck, the benefits your employer provided, and other information for the year. There are exceptions, but generally speaking, employees can’t deduct work related expenses because the equipment, supplies, and supports you need to perform your job, for the most part, are provided by your employer.

Independent contractors, on the other hand, are self employed. An independent contractor who teaches pole dance can work at one studio or many studios. Each studio will issue a 1099, as long as you’ve earned at least $600 at that studio. The responsibility to withhold taxes from your paycheck and provide any benefits falls to you, the independent contractor.

As an independent contractor teaching pole dance, you are considered self-employed for that line of work, even if you have a completely different day job as employee at a big company and you just teach pole dance on the side for fun.

You have a boss, and it’s you. You decide where and when you work, you determine your own rates, you do your own marketing and promotion, you arrange your own continuing education and training. That means you also pay for all of your own gear, classes, insurance, marketing, and more. Those things are all the cost of doing business, and they are expenses that can lower your taxable income. 

How Expenses Work for Independent Contractors

If you are a pole dance instructor working as an independent contractor and you earned over $600 last year from teaching pole classes at studio, you are going to get a 1099 from that studio. 

Do you teach at multiple studios? You’ll get a 1099 from each one, as long as you earned over $600 there. 

Add up the total income earned on your 1099s to see your top line revenue, which you have to pay taxes on. To alleviate your tax burden, you want to lower that top line revenue. To do that, you can deduct some expenses.

To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. 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 (2).

For example, let’s say you are a pole instructor, and your per class rate is $25.  For the tax year in question, you taught one class per week for the whole year at Studio A and two classes per week at Studio B. Studio A will send you a 1099 for $1,300, and Studio B will send you a 1099 for $2,600. Your top line revenue for the tax year is $3,900 and will be taxed. So let’s gather as many ordinary and necessary expenses as we can to subtract from that top line. 

What Expenses Can Pole Instructors Deduct?

Supplies and Equipment:

Supplies like grip aids keep pole dance instructors running. Equipment could include anything from resistance bands and foam rollers to crash mats and poles themselves.

Clothing and Gear:

If it doesn’t double as streetwear and it’s ordinary and appropriate for pole dance, keep the receipt. Your pole heels, pole wear sets, and other pole dance essentials are likely deductible expenses. Bee’s Knees Knee Pads and the Floorwork Shrug count!

Professional Development:

Classes and workshops you take to improve your craft fall under the category of professional development. So do the workbooks and pole bibles you buy. The Pole Instructor Planbook too.


Music is critical to pole dance, so if you pay for Spotify, Apple Music, or some other music subscription service, note it as a potential deductible expense. Ditto for online pole tutorial subscriptions like Cleo’s Rock n’ Pole, 123 Poling, and Studio Veena.

Advertising and Promotion:

Think business cards, flyers, posters, and paid ads. Photography and videography can be deductible expenses if you used the assets to promote yourself as a pole dance instructor.

The Bottom Line:

The above expense categories are by no means a comprehensive list, but they are a pretty good start to get you thinking about deductible expenses.

So let’s say for the tax year in question, you spent $200 for an annual subscription to Cleo’s Rock n Pole, $500 on pole classes, $680 on a liquid Motion Certification, $60 on grip aid, and a $45 set of professional Therabands to use in your classes, that’s a total of $1,485 of potential expenses you can deduct from your top line revenue. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be taxed on $2,415 rather than $3,900. 

If you are excitedly digging through your receipts trying to find other expenses you incurred for working as a pole dance instructor, you’re getting the hang of how all this works. Just remember:

  • Always consult with a tax professional. They can advise you on what deductions are allowed and help you navigate the specific rules and regulations based on your location and situation.
  • Keep detailed records of all your expenses. Receipts and documentation are crucial for claiming deductions.
  • Not all expenses are created equal. Some deductions have limitations or specific requirements, so research thoroughly before claiming them.