The IRAS (Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore) announced yesterday that they want to tax bloggers on all the non-monetary benefits, including sponsorship of products or services received in return for writing or reviewing the sponsors’ products. (Source: Channel News Asia)
After the initial WHAT?! I am willing and happy to pay the taxes. Here’s why…
First, it means that bloggers are recognized as a “professional” service providers! Next time a Public Relations professional tells me that I am not to publish something until the “mainstream” media has a go at it first, I will loudly and proudly proclaim that BLOGGERS ARE MAINSTREAM NOW! We Pay Taxes people!! R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
Second, by inducting us into the Hall of Taxes, we are placed on the same platform as “paid” Professionals, which means that the IRAS assumes that we EARN a substantial INCOME. Therefore, my logical mind says that I CAN and SHOULD now CHARGE a fee for my time, effort, and writing, regardless of my numbers!! How else am I going to earn my income otherwise? Please go to this link for an update on my services (Oops! That page is still under construction.)
Here are a few snags that the IRAS overlooked.
1) Not all bloggers get paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for a review. It takes a lot of tenacity and hard work to gain a substantial following on social media and reach the status where they can command a paid fee. The bloggers who reached the summit are applauded and envied. For the most part, many bloggers (maybe just me) are still climbing. Whatever income we earn is quickly consumed by the costs of our transport, Wi-Fi, electricity, and blogging equipment like cameras, laptops, etc.
2) Bloggers blog out of passion. Take me for instance, I became a parent blogger because I am passionate about my kids and I want to be the best parent I can be for them. I also want to spend time and bond with them especially during their formative years. Blogging not only offers me the perfect platform for me to do so but more importantly, it provides me with an opportunity to buffer our single-income family against the rising costs of modern living.
I am GRATEFUL to the businesses who invite me to review their spaces, products and services OR participate in their events. Without this partnership, many of our family outings will be conventional and uninteresting, maybe even non-existent.
THREE, it is simple business 101. If a business owner pays cash, he/she will expect a certain outcome, in this case, write positively about the business. If the outcome is undetermined (as in up to the blogger), then the business owner might use a “test water’ approach i.e. the barter exchange to see if there is a right fit.
As bloggers, we have to declare this barter exchange as a “sponsorship”. AND we have to adhere to this thing called ethics that requires us to write truthfully and responsibly.
Hence, when it comes right down to dollars and sense, the business communities are more willing to pay bloggers in kind. And I am a willing party to this exchange for the following reasons:
- It gives me the flexibility of time with my children
- It keeps me connected to the professional industry.
- I am contributing to the social communities be it family, food, beauty, or travel.
- My children are exposed to people, events, and places that they might otherwise not have the opportunities to do so.
It is an ecosystem that currently works for businesses and bloggers. The question I have for IRAS is, if the business communities are not willing to pay me cash, will the IRAS be willing to accept tax in kind? Can I invite IRAS to tag along with me to 20% of the media events I am invited to? Will they accept goodie bags and takeaways in lieu of the non-income that I receive?
Is the IRAS merely finding culprits in bloggers to pay for merchandise tax that big businesses write off as marketing or promotions liability? Are bloggers really the right people to tax? And by taxing bloggers, is IRAS once again committing the cardinal sin of stamping out free entrepreneur spirit in Singapore?
Like I said earlier, if I am getting paid cash to do a job, I will happily pay my taxes.