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What Do Bloggers Need to Claim for Taxes?

What do bloggers need to claim on their taxes?

If you’re a blogger and aren’t sure if you need to pay taxes, it will depend on whether you’re making money with your blog and whether you consider your blog a business or a hobby. I received the question below and Amanda Henson of High Impact Mom researched the answer and wrote it up.

Dear Blogging Basics 101:
I am building a blog. I thought it would be no big deal to put up a few affiliate banners and make a little spending money, but I didn’t realize that even the smallest income must be reported. Is that correct? I know nothing about how to report my income, or which forms to use. Can you explain how things differ for bloggers (hobby or business?)? Can you recommend a book or article or resource for me? Specifically, if I make less than $600 per year, do I have to file?

Answer: Congratulations on building a blog and great question. Let’s begin by discussing the differences between hobby and business blogging. If you have been lucky enough to make a profit from your blog, or small business, in three out of the last five years the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers it a business rather than a hobby. Even more precisely, if you have treated your blog like a business by regularly working on it with the purpose of making a profit, the IRS would also deem this a business and as such would also qualify for business deductions. If your blog is considered a business and you are filing as self-employed, you are also expected to pay self-employment taxes quarterly rather than at filing time.

Wondering what you need to claim? According to the IRS, taxable income is defined as all “employee wages and fringe benefits, and [all] income from bartering, partnerships, S corporations, and royalties.” The blogger must claim all review items, blog conference sponsorships, ad purchases and generally anything you are given that has value. The IRS also states “[y]ou have to file an income tax return if your net earnings from self-employment were $400 or more. If your net earnings from self-employment were less than $400, you still have to file an income tax return if you meet any other filing requirement listed in the Form 1040 instructions.”

As a business you are also able to deduct certain expenses and losses, though it should be noted that it is not generally a good idea for your expenses to outweigh your income outside of any first year start-losses. In order to make sure you’re taking advantage of as many deductions as you legitimately qualify for, I recommend seeking professional advice from an accountant or tax professional.

The long list of possible blogging tax deductions includes:

  • Blog Conference Fees
  • Hotel costs for business trips
  • Mileage for business trips
  • Webinars
  • Industry books
  • Website hosting fees
  • Website design
  • Jump drives
  • Graphic design fees
  • Business cards, letterhead

To learn more about tax law and how it affects bloggers, visit these articles:

Creative Commons License photo credit: Dave Dugdale

25 thoughts on “What Do Bloggers Need to Claim for Taxes?”

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  3. I disagree with the statement that blogger must claim the value of review items. The answer on that one is “it depends.” If the item was received as compensation, such as where the blogger specifically agrees to cover the item or provide advertising, then yes, the value of the item is income. but if the blogger receives items with no promises of any coverage or action at all, then it is a commercial sample (a gift) sent in hopes that the blogger will do something with it but no agreement that would make it income/compensation.

    1. I agree partially but for the most part I think this is the correct way to have the taxes brought into product samples.

      If a company sends you a product and asks you to write up a review, even if you promise to write up a review it is still a sample and a gift.

      I think any promise made for the actual review is simply an understanding between the company and the writer that something will be done but not necessarily one that benefits the company so no income is made because I may not have use for the product or be able to sell it.

      Taxes and bloggers on other sites have been compared to the barter system which is very wrong, barter is when both sides have a specific value for their services, writing about a product is too hard to come up with a value as reviews are not always good advertising for the company and product.

      1. Thanks Jeff for your comments – I agree, it seems ridiculous to try to tax on products received for a review because they are not considered payment but rather a sample for the blogger to use to facilitate their review. Now, if I actually receive monetary compensation for writing a review, I assume that should be put on a tax form right? Also, what about a company who offers a “$100 promotional item” after participating in a blog campaign? The $100 promotional item was an Amazon gift code. Promotional item sounds more like a gift than payment to me. Thoughts?

    2. Fabulous information! I’m still new in the game of blogging, but as my site grows I’m trying to think ahead on how I’ll be doing my taxes in the future. Big help you are miss!

    3. I’m still not sure about this one “The blogger must claim all review items”

      How is the IRS going to know what and where you got these items, no company gives the IRS a list of products they send out as marketing, they are all part of marketing and listed as gifts. Barter, if you want to go that way with it, says each side has to give a value to their service and send information to the IRS but companies do not send info to the IRS about giving away products.

      How are they going to know if you used them only for review purposes and after the review only as products in the use of your business. If I get a product, Photoshop is my perfect example, and then use it only for the business after the review then why should I claim it as an income when it is being used for the business only?

      I really don’t think the IRS can claim any review products as income as they have little to no way to know who gets what and at what price the stuff can be evaluated at. It would certainly not be fair to use MSRP on a product that only costs the company 40 percent of that cost to give to a reviewer.

    4. Ruthe, that’s what happens to a lot of people. Even I got a Facebook virus in January! I clicked on a link that was related to my friend’s blogging niche. Since I trusted her links and I know she regularly works with various brands, I clicked and allowed the app! I know. It was a ridiculous mistake, but we all make it at one time or another.

    5. Thank you!! Good to know. I will be looking this up again next year considering I just started my blog and haven’t launched it yet. I will add these deductions to my other wah jobs deductions. Can things you buy for giveaways be a deduction too?

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    7. There are so many different opinions regarding blogging and taxes. I recommend just going to a tax professional and giving them all of your information: income, products, received, expenses, etc. and let them do what they think.

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    9. I consider almost everything I photograph and post about on my blog, including clothes, beauty maintenance costs, etc., as write-offs {tax deductions} as well. I’m the brand, whatever I create or wear is all bloggy business. But make sure to save up during the year because taxes aren’t taken out of your ad revenue checks and your year end tax debt may be very high – even with the write-offs.

    10. Can I claim taxes for 2011, if Im 16 years old? I started working in November 18 , 2011. Every week on my paycheck they take away around $100 for taxes and my question is if i can claim taxes for 2011 ?

      1. Hello Don,

        Yes, if you have withholdings and/or earned income then you can and should file a tax return. Due to your age your parents may have claimed you on their tax return so, make sure to check with them. IF you made less than the standard deduction for 2011 ($5,350 for a single person) then you should get pay 100% of your withholdings as you won’t have any taxable income.

        I am a professional tax preparer for 8 years so, if you need more help feel free to reach out

    11. So glad to have found your site! SO much helpful information. Looking forward to reading through your previous posts during this Christmas break. I’ve added your blog to my “favorites” page. 🙂 Thanks for all the great tips!

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