I work for myself as a 1099 software engineering contractor and I have a Spotify streaming service account. I listen to it all day while I work.

I understand that many companies and offices listen to music each day and even though music may be playing within the business, this is usually not considered a "necessary" business expense.

However, when I listen to Spotify I listen to specific types of music-- music that has a chill-tone, often without vocals. The idea is to create a specific, background audio atmosphere. Personally, I can't explain it but I am easily 15-20% more productive by having some background music playing.

Another way of looking at it is by "investing" $9.99/month into a streaming audio service I am increasing my net-value to my customers by approximately 25%. It's difficult to come up with a legitimate value of increased productivity but, under oath and observation, I am more than confident that the music is making me or productive as software engineer.

Would such an argument likely convince an auditor that streaming audio expenses are legitimate business expenses? At the end of the day the $120 a year expense of streaming Spotify isn't that much but I'd like to take what I can legitimately get because who wants to pay more than they have to in taxes. Is this a viable write-off?

  • 1
    Do you work from home, or do you work at your customer's office? If at home, do you take the home office deduction?
    – Ben Miller
    Dec 2, 2016 at 21:24
  • @BenMiller From a home-office, that is located outside the home. o_O I "borrow" space, rent-free, from my wife's grand father. Not sure if all of those details apply, but that's the deal with my setup.
    – RLH
    Dec 2, 2016 at 21:29
  • Do you take the home office deduction, though? I think that's the big important question there.
    – Joe
    Dec 2, 2016 at 21:43
  • @Joe, no, since I don't own the home I work in, nor do I pay rent/office expenses. It's a free space.
    – RLH
    Dec 2, 2016 at 21:53

1 Answer 1


Nice try. No. If you were in the music industry, you might have a case. Depending on the exact job, certain things related to music would be a business expense. I don't see how this would pass an audit as it really is unrelated to the work you do.

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