Taxes for Massage Therapists

Learn the basics of how to handle taxes for your massage therapy practice.

Know the Rules About Paying Taxes

Massage therapists can get into trouble if they do not understand the rules about paying taxes. As a business professional, it is your responsibility to understand how to calculate how much you owe in taxes, what expenses are allowable as deductions and when your taxes are due. A massage therapist's best friend can be a professional tax advisor.

If You Are an Employee

If you are employed, your employer withholds taxes for you, and you do not have to file quarterly estimated tax. Your employer gives you a W-2 form that shows how much income you have been paid for the year and how much money was withheld for state, federal, Medicare and FICA (Social Security).

If you itemize your deductions, you might be eligible to deduct business expenses you incurred that your employer did not reimburse you for, such as professional association dues, massage lotions and accessories, massage-related magazine subscriptions and continuing education, to name a few.

If You Are Self-Employed

If you earn more than $400 a year, you are required to pay federal, state, Medicare and self-employment tax. You must also file and pay quarterly estimated taxes in April, June, September and January.

As a general rule, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations require that you pay at least 90 percent of the amount due for that quarter or 100 percent of the amount you paid for that quarter in the previous year. If you do not pay quarterly taxes on time and in the amount required, you will owe a penalty when you file your annual return.

The facility that pays you does not withhold taxes for you if you are an independent contractor, so taxes are your responsibility. Please note that having a contract is not enough to ensure that you are considered an independent contractor. 

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FICA vs. Self-Employment Tax

When you're an employee, your employer takes out half what you owe for Social Security from your paycheck, and your employer pays the other half. If self-employed, you pay the entire amount. The intention is that this amount should fund your Social Security account for your later retirement benefits. In addition to self-employment tax at the federal level, some states also apply a surcharge to self-employed individuals.

Report All Tips

Keep track of all income, including tips—do not assume that you don't need to report tips.

End-of-Year Strategies

The end of the year is a good time to assess whether you can reduce your tax liability by "spending down" the profits of your business. If there are charitable donations to qualified nonprofit organizations or business expenses you might have been holding off on during the year, year-end is a good time to make them because they might be eligible as tax deductions.

Eligible Deductions

In general, an expense is tax deductible if it meets three conditions established by the Internal Revenue Service:

  • You incurred the expense in connection with your practice.
  • The expense is ordinary (common or accepted as an expense of running a massage therapy practice) and necessary (appropriate or helpful for developing and maintaining your practice).
  • The deduction is based on precedent and on the reasonable belief that it is accurate.

Keep Your Receipts

When it comes to claiming a business expense as a tax deduction, it is important that you keep all receipts. If you set up a filing system and spreadsheet that allows you to keep your expenses and receipts organized as you incur them throughout the year, the job of compiling your tax information at the end of the year will be much easier.

Common Deductions for a Massage Practice

The inclusion of an item on the following list does not mean that it is necessarily eligible as a business tax deduction. Consult with your accountant, tax advisor, or the IRS on all questions about appropriate deductions.

  • office supplies
  • massage supplies
  • cost of acquiring merchandise
  • magazine subscriptions
  • fees for consultants
  • credit card fees
  • bank account fees
  • wages or fees paid
  • telephone charges
  • property tax
  • sales tax
  • business tax
  • license fees
  • depreciation on fixed assets
  • rent/mortgage payments
  • utilities for office space
  • linens and/or cleaning service
  • uniforms
  • gifts to clients
  • business travel
  • business mileage
  • business meals
  • home office expenses
  • insurance
  • continuing education
  • business conference fees
  • business books or references
  • association dues
  • music for client sessions

Always Get Professional Advice

Rules for what is allowable and not allowable as a tax deduction change almost every year. Also, some deductions, such as expenses for travel, entertaining, and percentage of space used for your practice, are limited, so it is necessary to understand the specific rules that apply to these areas. Penalties and interest for paying the wrong amount of taxes can cost much more than the fees you might spend to hire a professional tax advisor.

For more information regarding the specifics of your own tax situation, contact a professional tax advisor.