It’s never too soon to begin thinking about tax season, right? Yuck. But what about putting your polished new professional headshots to work for you on tax day?

Disclaimer: I have to state that this blog post is not official accounting or tax advice yada yada yada because I’m not your accountant or your tax person, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Please ask your number-crunching pro about this topic before moving forward. All I’m doing is presenting a thought that *could* lead to a few extra bucks back in your pocket. Possibly. Maybe.


It’s common knowledge these days that there are a considerable number of things that can qualify as deductible expenses that stem from doing everyday business. Things like certain meals, travel, vehicle mileage (for business purposes only), office supplies, studio rent and equipment purchases are just a few examples.

A year ago I spoke with my own numbers guy. He made it clear that I needed to track everything about my headshot photography business for possible deductions. That got me thinking — if this stuff can get deducted, why wouldn’t headshot photography qualify for the same thing if professional headshots are a core component of your business?

Real estate agents, lawyers, professors, writers, bloggers, actors, musicians, and financial people are easy examples. Doctors, even those characters who advertise on the New York City subways, could qualify. The long and short of it is, any of us who have an online presence need a headshot for reasons beyond taxes. If it’s required stuff as part of marketing ourselves professionally, then perhaps we can make money stretch a bit further.

Professional Headshots & Corporate Work

According to Intuit, the fine makers of the ever-popular TurboTax program and other software titles, as of early 2017 you can claim a deduction if your employer (which issues you a W-2) requires a headshot but doesn’t reimburse you for it. That is considered an ‘unreimbursed employee business expense’ and deals with Form 2106 (with a simplified 2106-EZ available). Our buds at the Internal Revenue Service have this form online so you can read more into it.


Instances like this might be rare for many, as companies often have photographers out to shoot headshots of their employees all day long at no cost to the individual. However, it’s not out of the realm that a place requires it and you need something better than standing in front of the office’s lightest-colored wall.

Thought on Partial Reimbursement

There are companies out there who need their employees to fetch their own headshots. Perhaps a person is newly hired. Or they missed photo day. Or maybe the company doesn’t have an ongoing partnership with a photographer for new-hire and headshot update sessions.

I had a client who inquired about a quality headshot. Her company only reimbursed $50 towards a headshot session. Fully knowing that you get what you pay for, she did her research and found me (yes!) We had a great shoot and she was more than willing to cover the extra cost to get a professional headshot experience.

My thought on this is, would this additional cost coverage above the reimbursed amount be deductible? There’s the seed, now ask your accountant or tax expert for your particular situation.

What About Headshots for Freelancers?

Being self-employed introduces a whole new world of possibilities, and sometimes you might even learn a thing or two. Sidebar Warning. In my research for this blog post (which, admittedly, is equivalent to the effort I put into one of my western civilization projects my freshman year in college), I learned from this LinkedIn article on tax deductions that half of my self-employment tax is deductible. Since I know you’re interested, the 15.3% self-employment tax is nothing more than when the Social Security Tax (12.4%) got together with the Medicare Tax (2.9%), and they had an ornery little chap.

When you work for somebody, they cover half of that tax, and you pay the other half. Being self-employed, we include both halves, but — tada — a portion of it is deductible! Science!

Back On Topic

So, particularly for people who are self-employed, give this some thought as you line up a professional headshot session. We already know about deducting things centric to operating a business. Might we be overlooking our personal and professional branding headshots as deductible items also?

Again, please see your accountant, tax preparer, or small business tax software for further details on this. What constitutes business, business for profit and hobbies gets murky. In fact, it’s so murky that the IRS has an old “unofficial document” floating around that talks about examiner guidelines and businesses that are questionable on the for-profit front. Stamp collecting and bowling are on the list so look out if you’re in those fields. See page 11 if you decide to go down that rabbit hole.

Closing Out

Again, this isn’t official tax advice. Can’t say that enough. However, the ideas are here. Chat with your pro before the end of the tax season and see if your new professional headshots are deductible business expenses!