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As a yoga teacher, you probably draw on intention and maybe even intuition to lead your students through their practice. But those talents, while valuable, won’t exactly help you when it’s time to do your taxes.
Determining which yoga teacher tax write-offs you’re able to (legit) deduct on your return can be…complicated. If you meet the criteria for self-employed, you can typically deduct “normal expenses” that support your ability to conduct and run your business, says Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA, a TurboTax expert. If you have a stack of 1099s declaring your income from yoga studios or a stream of payments from students via Venmo, Zelle, or other payment apps, you’re self-employed.
But what is “normal” when it comes to expenses? The government has some surprise stipulations. Following are expenses that yoga teachers can legally itemize as deductions on the IRS tax form known as Schedule C. The list is not exhaustive, nor does it pertain to each individual’s unique situation. You probably want to tconsult with your accountant regarding your deductions.
What Yoga Teacher Tax Write-Offs You CAN Deduct
This catch-all category covers any expense that helps you promote your business. That includes your website domain fee as well as your website builder subscription (such as Wix). It also includes any photo editing or graphic design software or platforms (such as Canva). If you opt for paid social media promotions or use a scheduler, those expenses are deductible, too, as are any costs related to email marketing. Same goes for printing costs for posters or biz cards. Think of it in terms of any cost related to someone potentially learning about your teaching.
Car and Truck Expenses
If you drive to your classes, you have a choice: You can either take the standard mileage deduction for each mile or you can track and calculate all your auto-related expenses—including gas, oil changes, repairs, license and registration, parking, and depreciation.
The standard mileage deduction is vastly simpler. For mileage incurred from January 1 through June 30, 2022, it’s 58.5 cents per mile; from July 1 through the end of 2022, it’s 62.5 cents per mile. You can deduct travel miles as well as local miles you drive from one studio to another or to and from private yoga sessions. But you cannot deduct mileage to and from your home to your primary yoga studio. (See “What Yoga Teachers CANNOT Write Off” below.)
This category refers to expenses for professional services that directly relate to your business. If you hired a photographer to take shots, contracted a graphic designer to revamp your website, or asked another yoga teacher to help you lead a workshop, retreat, or yoga teacher training, you can deduct those expenditures.
Rent or Lease
This refers to the cost of renting or leasing your studio space and primarily pertains to studio owners. But if you rent space to lead a class, workshop, or training, that cost is a deduction.
The premium for your liability insurance is deductible.
Legal and Professional Services
Have you consulted with an attorney for work-related reasons? Or perhaps paid an accountant or a tax software service? All of that is deductible.
If you teach from a dedicated space in your home or have a room you use exclusively as your home office, you can deduct a percentage of your rent or mortgage, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, and utilities. The exact percentage is based on the square footage of your home office compared to the total square footage of your home. According to TurboTax software, the allowed space for your home office can not exceed 300 feet.
Note: According to the IRS, any room that is used for other purposes does not qualify as “business use of the home.” So no, you can’t deduct that corner of your bedroom where you practice yoga.
Anything you purchase that’s related to your teaching counts as a supply. That includes yoga mats, blocks, blankets, bolsters, essential oils, and sound instruments. “I was told you can even write off incense,” says J. Brown, yoga teacher, studio owner, and podcast host in Easton, Pa. (He’s correct. If you use that incense when teaching class, then yes, it’s a deduction.)
This category includes the adapter you bought so your phone would be compatible with a studio’s audio system. It also covers purchases related to teaching online from home, including a ring camera, microphone, cords, or any technical equipment.
Have you travelled to an event pertaining to any aspect of your work? If yes, you can deduct expenses for your hotel, meals, and transportation, says Mark Steber, Chief Tax Information Officer for Jackson-Hewitt Tax Services. That includes how you get there (plane, train, or automobile) and how you get around (subway, taxi, ride shares).
If you’re using your own vehicle, you can write off the mileage, he says. You can also write off half the cost (including tax and tips) of any restaurant meal (dine-in or takeout) during your travel.
Utilities (including WiFi and Phone Usage)
Technically, you should expense only the work-related percentage of your internet and cell phone bills. “Track the number of calls you make for work and divide by the total calls made for the year. This is your phone business percentage,” says Steber. The same approach also applies to your WiFi expenditures.
That would mean some serious tediousness when calculating your taxes. If no refund seems worth that much work, you could simplify things. Keeper Tax software advises individuals to write off no more than 40 percent of your internet bill per month.
This catch-all category covers anything else that qualifies as a “normal” expense related to conducting your yoga teaching business. That includes subscriptions or memberships to music streaming services that you use during class (such as Spotify), online meeting hosts (such as Zoom), yoga or meditation apps (provided you regard them as educational and related to your teaching), online workshops or trainings, and studio memberships. You can also deduct fees for taking a mandatory CPR course or choosing to register with Yoga Alliance.
A general self-employment deduction that’s often overlooked by yoga teachers is the monthly service fee from your bank on your account. But this is only a write-off if you have a business bank account.
What Yoga Teacher Tax Write-Offs You CANNOT Deduct
Your First Yoga Teacher Training
No, your first YTT does not qualify as a deductible expense. But any training you take thereafter—including workshops, courses, and supplemental yoga teacher trainings—does qualify as a deduction.
According to the IRS, that initial training qualifies you for your work and, as such, is not a write-off. However, it can be used as an education credit, says Steber. Any education thereafter is an allowable expense. “The cost of maintaining a license or continuing education to stay up to date on instruction is deductible as an ‘other’ expense,” he says.
Mileage To and From Your Primary Studio
You cannot deduct mileage to and from your home and the studio where you teach most frequently because that is considered your primary workplace. You can, however, deduct studio-to-studio miles as well as any distance you travel to and from private yoga sessions.
Sadly, yoga clothing is not a tax write-off. “The government specifications around work clothing or uniforms are clear: Workout clothes are not deductible. It’s considered the same as wearing regular clothes to work,” says Greene-Lewis.
Hours you spend volunteer teaching are not deductible, says Greene-Lewis. But any related supplies you purchase for your volunteer work as well as your mileage to and from those classes do qualify as deductions. So if you volunteer to teach for a local after-school program and pick up some mats or blocks at a thrift shop, you can deduct that expense. Your mileage rate deduction is calculated at 14 cents per mile for 2022.
Also, to clearly define “volunteering,” if you took YTT and occasionally teach yoga on the side to friends and family but don’t charge, that’s considered different from actual charitable use of your time and talents (although you may disagree). If this is your situation, you shouldn’t try to write off your yoga-related expenses.
What Else Yoga Teachers Should Know About Taxes
If you’re drawing even a small amount of income from teaching yoga, that counts as self-employed work for tax purposes. Although if you file more deductions than income for your teaching year after year, chances are it will not be regarded favorably in an audit. “In my understanding, people get flagged when they don’t report enough income and write off more,” says Brown, who was audited in the 1990s when he was teaching in Brooklyn.
Of course, yoga teachers don’t make a lot of money, so you might be worried whether you’re writing off too much. There’s probably no need for concern. Keep documentation for your expenditures, accurately report your income, and consult with an accountant if you have questions.
“Here’s the thing,” says Brown. “Yoga teachers are typically a very honest and conscientious bunch. They aren’t the kind of people who are into gaming the system, and with taxes and write-offs, it can feel like you’re doing that.” At the end of the day, you’re trying to do the right thing even if it seems confusing and overwhelming and as if you might actually be gaming the system. Maybe those intentions aren’t so misplaced after all.
About Our Contributor
Carrie Havranek is a food and wellness writer, yoga practitioner, and Reiki master living in eastern Pennsylvania.