Claiming condoms as a business expense

Whenever the business expenses of sex-workers are discussed there is one item of essential escorting expenditure that regularly seems to cause anxiety and confusion: the condom.

The tax position is actually very straightforward. Anyone in business is entitled to claim tax relief for any expenses that are ‘wholly and exclusively’ incurred in the course of their business. That’s not the clearest of definitions, but one category of expenses that sits firmly inside the rules is protective clothing.

Protective clothing for a plumber might include things like welding goggles and steel toe-capped boots, for a lumberjack we’d be talking about ear defenders and hard hats, and for someone providing sexual services condoms are essential protective clothing. It really is as simple as that.

So why the doubts and confusion? Here’s how they often get expressed.

I’ve registered with the tax man as a massage therapist (or maybe exotic dancer or executive stress consultant) doesn’t that mean I can’t claim for condoms?

What you can claim for is determined by the reality of how you actually earn your money and it doesn’t matter what description you used when you registered your business. If the reality is that clients pay you for sexual services you can claim for the cost of any condoms you use.

And of course it works the other way round too. Just because you have registered as a massage therapist it doesn’t automatically mean you can claim for massage oils. It depends on the services you actually provide. Regardless of how your business is described you will get tax relief on massage oils only if you actually buy the oils and you use them in whatever services you get up to with your clients.

My website says my clients only pay for time and companionship, and that anything else is a matter between consenting adults. Doesn’t that mean the sex bit is not part of my business and therefore expenses like condoms don’t qualify as a business expense?

If you use condoms during your time with a client you are entitled to claim the cost as a business expense. Actually it doesn’t even matter if you don’t use them for sexual activity. If you decided (as consenting adults often do) to play some bizarre party game involving the eating of bananas sheathed in condoms, or just make balloon animals, you could still claim for them as a business expense – and you could claim for the bananas too. All that matters is that each condom is used ‘wholly and exclusively’ in the providing the experience that you sell to your client.

But if I show condoms on my Tax Return or accounts won’t that ring alarm bells in the tax office and lead to a tax enquiry?

You don’t have to list your expenses on your Tax Return. If your total business income is less than £79,000 there is just a single box to put the total of all your business expenses. And if your total income is higher than this you still only need to split your expenses between about 10 standard headings. You certainly don’t have to supply a detailed list of all your expenses. Only if HMRC decide to enquire into your Tax Return will you have to tell them what expenses are included in each box.

I know I could pay less for condoms if I bought them in bulk from an online supplier but I usually buy expensive ones in small quantities from Boots. Should I only claim for the cheaper ones?

You can claim for what you actually spend. HMRC are not concerned about whether you got value for money or even if the expenditure was necessary. All that matters is that you spent the money and that the condoms were used in your business. Furthermore if you decide to buy dental dams you can claim for them too, even though most sex-workers probably wouldn’t regard them as essential.

Are there any condoms I can’t claim as a business expense?

You can’t claim for the cost of any that are used in your personal life.  And the same goes for bananas.

You might want to read this as well:

Do I have to describe myself as an escort?