I hesitate in writing this blog post, only because I could be inviting unwanted scrutiny and snarky “How dumb are you?” comments. But it’s on my mind, and if blogging isn’t for sharing honest thoughts and questions, then what is it for?
I suppose I’ve remained willfully naive on the issue of taxes and blogging as my blog has grown because – well, let’s face it – taxes are like a big, fat, greased-up elephant that you can never quite manage or get your arms around. And even thinking about them makes my head hurt. Blogging, on the other hand? Blogging I enjoy. Working with companies, being the first to review new products? I enjoy that, too.
But I never factored in the age-old truism: you can’t get something for nothing.
According to several sources, online and off, the products I have received for review are considered taxable income. I have to claim the fair market value (not the discounted price I can find at Amazon, etc) of those products as taxable income. Which – for me – now means I get to pay for the pleasure of blogging.
You see, I don’t sell ads on my blog, I don’t write posts-for-pay. In fact, aside from the occasional gift cards or credit (which, ironically, I *did* figure on claiming, because it’s more intuitively understood as income, or increase), I make no money whatsoever from my blog. The money I make online is because of work I do for other sites. And again, that cold, hard cash registered in my brain as income. The products? Not so much.
It makes sense now, it really does. And if I’m being honest, I’ve been peripherally aware of those “Bloggers and Taxes: What You Need To Know” panels at blogging conferences. The same panels I’ve purposely avoided in exchange for the “How to Work with Companies” panels, which clearly suited my interests more than talking about the financial spiderweb (and potential penalties) of doing something I love so much. The information has been there, I just haven’t been paying attention.
One question I have (among many) is this: who in their right mind wants to pay for the pleasure to blog? I guess I understand now why the big push to monetize. Because the blogger who is doing things on the up-and-up needs to at least recoup the cost of having to pay taxes on the products she’s received, and if she isn’t getting paid for reviews (which many are not), then she’s got to make money elsewhere to make the whole thing worth it. I’ve always shied away from “monetizing” because I want my blog to feel like MY blog, and – for ME – ads and affiliates feel like an invasion of my space. I guess now I get to pay out of pocket for taking that high road.
I have another question, and it’s in regards to companies sending products to bloggers. Companies are so careful now to include FTC-friendly disclosures for bloggers to publish with their posts. I’ve had company reps get back to me within an hour or two of publishing a post in which I forgot to put that wording, asking that I edit my post to include it. I understand they are covering their backs. But when – or will? – those same companies include the fair market value of the products they are sending, with a reminder that the blogger record and claim such information for tax purposes? Companies claim they don’t have the necessary budgets to pay bloggers for reviews – and there are many (including myself) who wouldn’t want the money anyway, since taking money for a review creates questionable credibility – but couldn’t they at least provide bloggers with the tools and INFORMATION to do things legally and responsibly?
I know, it’s not a company’s responsibility to help or educate bloggers. We should all be doing our own due diligence. It’s a blog-eat-blog world out there.
This has all hit me like a ton of bricks overnight, and I’m staring with dread at the four boxes of products I’ve received just this week, and the list of upcoming campaigns in which I said I would participate. I’ve had a love-it/hate-it affair with reviewing products anyway, and now in addition to those uncertainties, I’m just feeling plain dumb. And soon enough, I’ll be feeling plain broke, too.
ps: You better believe I’ll be doing a generous amount of wincing as I write the product-related posts I’m due to write later today. The ironic juxtaposition of content is not lost on me.