Katrina Summers

Interview and photography by
Zac Bayly


Australia's queers and sex workers can count on Katrina Summers when taxes are due. With seasoned know-how, the Sydney based accountant is an expert on which sex toys and kinky costumes can be written off. Her mission is simple: save the underdogs one receipt at a time. For those needing a different type of sorting out, there's a dungeon in the basement of her office building.

Zac: Where should we begin?
Katrina: I’ve got a bit of a story. I left home when I was thirteen and nine months. I didn’t get on with my parents. They were Pentecostal.
Your parents were really religious?
Yes. Very strict. I didn’t like them and I ended up living with Hare Krishnas. And they said, ‘Don’t become a prostitute.’ And of course, I did. At about sixteen, I flew to London and became an escort.
What year was this?
I won’t go into the year, because uh… I look younger than what I am. (laughs) Let’s say the 80s. And then one day I decided to get educated and came back to Sydney and started over again. And what do I decide to be? An accountant and a lawyer. I thought, ‘Oh, this’ll be easy…’ Well, it wasn’t.
This was an accounting degree AND a law degree?
I had to choose which one I wanted. I thought, ‘I don’t think I can bow to a judge – people bow to me.’ (laughs) It’s not in my nature. I’ve always had a bossy style. So, I did accounting, and I worked in all sorts of places – merchant banks, a prison.
Yeah. Then one day I thought, ‘I wonder if there’s a need for an accountant in the sex industry?’
What made you think of this?
My experiences. I wondered what workers did tax-wise and soon found out that no one was doing anything.
Everything was cash-in-hand?
Correct. I ended up contacting a professional association and they said, ‘No one’s ever done it before.’ So, I said, ‘Alright, I’m interested.’ I approached the tax office with those organizations and I said, ‘What if I start getting these girls on the books and get them to start declaring income?’ The only problem was we couldn’t put down their occupations.
You couldn’t put down their occupations?
I’m not going to put “prostitute” on their tax return. People don’t want that word there. The occupation code can be “tutor” or “personal trainer” – anything they feel comfortable with. And instead of using words like “lingerie” and “sex aids” we use “materials” and “supplies”. Indeed, you can claim these things.

Now the big earners are all baby cougars, and cougars are second.

This sounds like incredible work.
(laughs) Yes. They’re happy, the government’s happy, generally the guys and the girls and the trans people are happy, because they’re contributing. They all rush in to pay their taxes. They love paying taxes. More than anyone I’ve ever known. I mean it. Whole sincerity.
Why do you think that is?
They want to be valued members of society. And they want to get on, have some children… They want to be like everyone else.
And be able to do things like get a house.
Of course. And mind you some of the girls are on ten, fifteen thousand a night. People think all sex workers are standing there with their thumb out. Oh, please! Please… A lot of these women are spending a lot of money on themselves – doing their hair, makeup, tans – and they’ve got to drive the right car depending on the establishment, and if they’re on their own they’ve got to have a nice place. With a view. And the high fliers only work from seven in the morning until seven at night. They don’t want guys that are doing drugs, out all night. The young ones might, but not the baby cougars, who are the top earners. 35 to 43, now that’s the age to make money.
Really! Why’s that?
Because we look good. Young guys like us, middle class guys like us, older ones like us, girls like us, couples like us…
I just imagined it was like 18-21 years.
Wrong! It used to be, but now the big earners are all baby cougars, and cougars are second. Web cam girls do very well – they’re 18 with the colored hair and the school girl outfits. And you have a lot of women who wave their partner off at 9am and go into the brothel for four hours a day.
Do their partners know?
Nope! Hence why in brothels you always have cameras to make sure it’s not a partner, a brother, or a father outside your room.
Have you ever heard of a story where…
(rolls eyes) Hello… I’ve heard every story.

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It's all about the horny details!

When I reached out to you, I hadn’t heard of an accounting business like this, and I wondered, ‘How many clients do you have? What does the client base look like?’
Those are half of my clients, and the other half is from the LGBTQIA+ community. And I started there because I’m an integral part of the leather community and…
I didn’t catch that. Did you say you’re a lesbian?
I’m a queer girl. I like trannies and all sorts. I started my client base on the dance floor. I was out every night and then I was a promoter. I used to host parties with 5000 people. I was also a partner in something called Queer Arts Management. So, we were a management company for booking drag queens – don’t forget we’re talking the 90s – if you needed someone unusual, then we provided.
Because now, if you go on Instagram there’s so many interesting-looking people.
Back then it was different. Then we had Drag Bag, an entertainment agency for all of the drag queens. They weren’t always exactly reliable… (laughs) Like, ‘See you on Saturday!’ And they’d respond, ‘Maybe!’ Anyways, I’ve got about 500 clients now.
How many hours a day do you work?
How many hours a day? I start at eight in the morning and we finish at whatever. I’m not busy right now. In July, I’m like a David Jones clearance sale – everyone wants to see me. It’ll be, ‘Katrina! Katrina! Katrina!’
I recently did all my taxes for the first time in six or seven years, and I was photographing crinkled receipts from years ago. Anything I could find. It was a mess. Are your clients good at this? Or is it a mix?
A mix. I also specialize in people who haven’t done their taxes for a long time. See, I’ve got a lot of old gay guys who never did their taxes – and I’m going back to the 2000s – because of AIDS, they thought, ‘I’m not doing my taxes because I might be dead soon.’ I had a guy two weeks ago who hadn’t done his taxes – he takes the prize – for sixty years. Six. Zero
The ones who haven’t done their taxes in a decade have every bloody receipt from ten years ago, and it’s an ape on their back. It’s awful for them!
That’s what happened to me! I had this box of receipts and my mom actually called me one day and said, ‘I’ve organized an accountant for you. Just send them everything you have.’ I needed that push to finally do it.
Just do it! One day this guy came in with a box the size of a refrigerator full of receipts. And I said, ‘Unless there’s a polar bear in there, don’t open it!’
Why does your business cater to the LGBTQIA+ community and sex workers? Are there other similarities, in terms of their financial needs, or is there just a big crossover between the communities?
Well, there’s a lot of crossover. Both girls and guys. There’s a lot of dykes working in the sex industry. Certainly, a lot of boys. And the trannies do particularly well – when Parliament’s in session! (laughs) And we all get on. No one gets offended if you’re a sex worker or if I’m queer. We’re all in the same family.

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Sydney's kinkiest account files tax forms on pink paper.

I bet you hear a lot of secrets!
Lots and lots. It’s a fun, wonderful environment I’ve grown for myself. I actually, really do love my work. I was an interior designer before this – I’ve got flair, I’ve got style, and yet I can’t draw a circle. But I’ve definitely got color and… campiness!
Yes! If I met you and we didn’t talk finances, I’d assume you were a fabulous television presenter.
I know, I know. I choose to do this and I love helping out the underdog. I want everyone to be successful. And I mean this absolutely wholeheartedly – I want everyone to get their shit together.
How has your work changed since you started this business in 1992?
Oh, tremendously. Even in early 90s everything was paper. Then it went from paper to floppy disk. And we had to drive into town and submit it at the tax office three times a week. Of course, socially things have changed. I have lots of throuples. Trannies are treated terribly. Only now do we have a change of name and gender. Gender neutral exists too. Everything was always straight. But I’m still fighting – you’re not allowed to get income protection if you’re a sex worker. Why? They think you’re in a high-risk category for HIV!
Is THAT why?
Sex workers are the last ones to not use protection!
What can sex workers claim on their taxes in Australia?
Home office, motor vehicle, their outfits, telephone, advertising… All of it. When the girls come through, we give them a guide on how to do their books and receipts. They can claim makeup. They can’t claim conventional clothes, no one can. Not a newsreader, not a politician. But because the girls might have to dress in a particular manner, like this guy wants her to wear a white halter neck dress to look like Marilyn Monroe, then it’s considered a costume. But you can only claim three a year.

It's incredible how sex and tax can have such a close relationship.

You’re also a broker, right?
Correct. I also write rental letters for sex workers, but I don’t put down their actual profession because they’ll face discrimination. One funny story is one of these girls, a sex worker, I got her a property. She told the neighbors that she’s a nurse.
Someone didn’t have a heart attack and they called her, right?
No. During the pandemic the lovely neighbors left her meals at the door.
They thought she’d been working at the hospital all night!
She comes and goes in her scrubs and one morning, the whole street was clapping for her! (both laugh) And she’s going, ‘Thank you… Thank you…’ The whole street!
What does “lifestyle mistress” mean? I saw it on your ad!
Oh, I’m just being camp. Well, you might like my lifestyle. Plus, I have my own dungeon for friends, lovers…
So, can I ask you about your sex life?
I’ve been in the fetish scene practically all my life. Since my early 20s. And I once opened up a club called Threshold in Sydney and it was a bondage warehouse. It was the first of its kind with a queer mix.
Had you started accounting already?
I can’t remember. Anyways, I do the accounts for a lot of fetish clubs, night clubs… DJs, performers and… I do all of it. It’s incredible how sex and tax can have such a close relationship. (laughs) I really did start in the club on the dance floor, handing people my business card and asking, ‘You wanna get your taxes done?’
Is it true that you don’t cater to heterosexuals?
Correct. I don’t do straight people. It’s not my clientele. (laughs) They love me, but I don’t like them. No way!

Originally published in BUTT 32