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Can Public Speaking Impact Your Taxes?

Another April 15th is here, so I’m putting my bookkeeper’s hat on to share some insight into the question many speakers may have: Are there public speaking deductions I can take advantage of? Before I start sharing though, my disclaimer: Please remember that I am a bookkeeper, not a CPA. This means I can provide information, but it’s up to you to find out if it’s information that’s applicable to you and your situation.

The first thing the IRS is going to want to know is what type of speaker you are. There are three basic types of speakers: Professional, Business, and Hobbyist. (I know… the word “hobbyist” isn’t very flattering, but it’s one of those terms that does come into play when it comes to taxes.)

Professional speakers are speakers whose primary employment is as a public speaker going from one speaking engagement—both public and private—to the next. Professional speakers earn their income by getting paid to speak, by selling their products and services after they leave the stage, or by both. When professional speakers aren’t on the stage, they’re working on building presentations, marketing themselves as speakers, etc.

Business speakers are professionals who use public speaking as a marketing tool/strategy for sharing information about their business, products, and services with more than one person at a time.

Hobbyist speakers are people who enjoy speaking because it provides them with a way to share their interests and passions with a larger group of people. (If you’d like to know more about the difference between a hobby and a business as far as taxes go, this is a link to an IRS explanation.)

Both professional and business speakers will be able to take their public speaking income and expenses into account when they’re preparing their taxes. In the course of everyday business, the preparation costs of a presentation would fall under ordinary and necessary business deductions… as long as the topic/audience represents the speaker’s business and/or industry. This would include travel expenses as well. Other deductions that might be considered are:

  • Education: If you take classes or attend lectures (like The Podium Process) to better your skills as a speaker.
  • Marketing material: business cards, speaker one sheets, your website, etc.
  • Promotional materials and/or prizes might be deductable if they’re used as part of a contest designed to provide you with business leads.
  • Periodical costs might be deductable if you’re reading them to stay up to date within your industry.
  • Equipment and supplies: Hardware for presentations such as a lavaliere microphone, a slide advancer, etc. Software, such as PowerPoint. Subscriptions to websites like Canva so you can produce handouts or other visually appealing marketing material.
  • Costs to subscribe and/or promote yourself on a website designed to help you find more speaking opportunities, such as At the Podium.
  • Cruise deductions: Yes! Speakers can even be paid “guest lecturers” on a cruise ship… subject to certain IRS rules and regulations, of course.

And while I’ve still got my bookkeeper’s hat on, I highly recommend using a program such as Quick Books or Quicken to document your income and expenses throughout the year. It’s going to make your life so much easier when tax time rolls around next year. Lastly, always consult with your tax advisor for the best advice as to what makes the most sense for your individual situation.

You’ve probably already completed your taxes for 2018, but it’s never too early to get ready for 2019!