Sex Workers and Paying Tax

Current sex work licensing laws enable around 20% of sex workers to work legally, with the remaining 80% driven underground, working outside the law. However, all sex workers are required to pay tax. Sex workers face many barriers to paying tax. These include:

  1. The complexity of Victoria’s sex work laws make it difficult for sex workers to understand how these laws relate to taxation.
  2. 80% of sex workers in Victoria are criminalised and may fear declaring their income/occupation will expose them to prosecution by police.
  3. Intense stigma surrounding sex work results in most sex workers concealing their occupation from friends, family and authorities, including the ATO.
  4. Establishing an Australian Business Number (ABN) as a sole trader enables others to locate your legal name, via the ABN Lookup website. Most sex workers are careful to prevent clients and others from discovering their legal name
  5. By law, tax invoices handed to clients must include a self-employed sex worker’s ABN, allowing the sex worker’s legal name to be identified using the ABN Lookup website.
  6. In order to suppress a name from the ABN Lookup website, sex workers must have a valid reason, such as an intervention order or proof that they have been the victim of a crime.
  7. Most clients prefer to pay in cash.
  8. Financial discrimination remains widespread, making it difficult for sex workers to open and use business bank accounts. 
  9. Most sex work support organisations focus on health and legal issues, with less emphasis on taxation information.

© Sex Work Law Reform Victoria 2020

Last updated: 10 March 2020