Being a personal trainer can be a highly rewarding career. You get to help others become the best version of themselves while staying healthy and fit yourself, and very little of your time is spent sitting at a desk.
At tax time, though, you’ll have to spend some sedentary time doing paperwork. Personal trainer tax deductions can be confusing, but they are worth the trouble as they translate into real dollars in your pocket.
Let’s look at the things personal trainers can write off.
Note: This article is only for educational purposes. Consult with a licensed tax professional to guide your specific tax situation.
What are personal trainer tax deductions?
If you're a W2 employee, your employer usually takes taxes out of your paycheck.
However, when you're and independent contractor or self-employed, you'll need to figure out what income tax you owe the internal revenue service (IRS) on your own.
Typically, self-employed individuals pay quarterly or annually, depending on how your small business is structured.
Taxes are based on how much you earn, your marital status and the state where you do business. Tax deductions can reduce your taxable income, so you end up paying less in taxes.
For example, if you earn $30,000 in a year and have $8,000 in deductible expenses, you would only need to pay taxes on $22,000 since the rest of it is considered deductible.
That makes tax deductions a nice way for personal trainers to save some money on their taxes because it reduces the taxable amount.
What can kind of tax deductions can personal trainers claim?
If you are someone’s employee, tax laws prevent you from writing off any business expenses. But if you are a self-employed personal trainer, you can reduce your taxes by various deductions.
Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s important to check with your own accountant or tax professional before filing your tax return. In general, though, here are some common personal trainer tax write-offs.
1. Business insurance (and other kinds of insurance)
Many kinds of business insurance are tax-deductible, especially if required to have. Coverages like general liability or workers’ compensation can often qualify for a deduction. The insurance premiums you pay are generally tax-deductible as long as they meet IRS guidelines.
Similarly, if you’re self-employed, you may also be able to deduct your health insurance, dental, and long-term care premiums.
2. Car expenses and mileage
If you have a vehicle that you use exclusively for your personal training business, you can generally write off its entire cost of use.
However, if you use your personal car for business, you will need to calculate your business use. Deductions can include driving to and from clients' homes for training sessions or running business-related errands. You cannot track commuting miles, though.
For that portion of your car expenses, you can choose to deduct either actual expenses or a mileage rate. The IRS guidelines are fairly extensive but reasonably easy to follow.
3. Equipment and supplies
In general, any gear that you use exclusively to train clients is tax-deductible.
Free weights, treadmills, weight machines, exercise mats, water fountains, and even sound systems may qualify if you use them solely for your clients. Workout DVDs, paid music streaming services and the like are also eligible, again provided that they are used for business purposes and not by you during your off time.
4. Home office and utilities
A home office is one of the most common (and sometimes the most profitable) fitness instructor tax deductions.
You must follow several IRS guidelines you must follow to claim this deduction, including regular and exclusive use of the office space. However, deductible home office expenses may include partial rent or mortgage interest, insurance, repairs and depreciation.
Similarly, you may also be able to claim a portion of your monthly utility bills, cell phone bill and more.
5. Legal fees
Certain legal fees are deductible. For example, the costs of filing personal trainer legal forms or having an attorney draft a letter for you. Legal fees that are directly business-related expenses are generally tax-deductible.
Personal legal fees, such as the cost of drawing up a will, generally are not.
6. Marketing expenses
Personal trainer marketing comes in many forms, from branded clothing, business cards, flyers and paid social media ads. If you pay website domain fees, have a logo created or hire a photographer for promotional shots, it all counts as long as it's a legitimate business expense.
While marketing and advertising expenses are generally tax-deductible, costs related to lobbying (trying to influence legislation) are not.
7. Miscellaneous expenses
You can generally deduct some or all miscellaneous business expenses from your self-employment taxes. These may include:
- Office supplies such as printer ink cartridges, paper, water cooler
- Classes you take to improve or maintain your personal trainer skills
- Your business license
- Facility rental fees
- Subscriptions to trade magazines and publications
Special guidelines may apply to depreciable property, such as computers and office furniture.
8. Travel costs
Travel costs are generally tax-deductible if they are necessary for your fitness business. For instance, if you attend a trade show or conference. Or maybe a celebrity client wants you to travel with them when they go on a trip.
Whatever the case, you will need to separately account for your transportation, lodging, meals and incidentals using one of the IRS-approved methods. There are also a variety of IRS guidelines and regulations surrounding travel deductions, some of which are quite complex.
How to claim personal trainer tax deductions
When claiming personal trainer tax deductions, the IRS looks for two basic things:
- Can you prove you incurred the expense?
- Was the expense an ordinary and necessary cost of doing business?
Although receipts are not always required for certain small purchases, it’s best to get in the habit of saving and filing all receipts for bookkeeping purposes.
To claim a deduction for car expenses based on mileage, you’ll need to keep a mileage log for your business use of the vehicle.
For a home office deduction, you’ll need to know the square footage of your house and the square footage of the space you use exclusively as a workspace.
As a self-employed sole proprietor, you would use Schedule C (Form 1040) to list your income and deductions.
If you choose to file your taxes through a tax software solution such as TurboTax or TaxAct, the software will walk you through every step of the process. It will help you understand each deduction and the rules for claiming it.
However, if you aren’t financially or technologically savvy, it’s your first year in business, or if your tax situation is complicated, it may be better to use a tax professional to handle your personal trainer tax return. Even if you use a software solution, it’s a good idea to have a CPA or tax attorney look over your financial records once a year.
Putting it all together
Taking responsibility for your taxes is one of the more frustrating aspects of running your own personal training business.
Unlike when you worked for someone else, no one is automatically withholding taxes from your paychecks, and you will be responsible for self-employment tax as well as your personal tax liability.
Fortunately, there are a variety of tax deductions that can reduce the amount you have to pay.
Check with your tax professional to determine which deductions apply to you, and carefully follow all of the relevant IRS regulations and guidelines to reduce the risk of an audit when filing your personal trainer tax return.
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