Blogger PSA: If you attend food tastings in Singapore, you could be taxed for it

I was having a fine day, until a little bird sent me this disturbing piece of news:

 

Tastings are taxable 2

I did some digging, and this is legit. For the IRAS document, click here. If you’ve ever been to a food tasting, had a free make up product given to you for review or had ANYTHING given to you and you’ve posted a vlog or blog review…

That was taxable.

Oh no

Have a look at this clause:

All non-monetary benefits such as sponsorships, products and services received are considered gains and profits from services provided as a social media influencer (including blogger, YouTuber).

Yes when I read this I was like…

readImage

Attended a Food Tasting a blogged about it?

uh oh

Got a review camera from a PR firm and got to keep it?

uh oh

Went on a sponsored trip or hotel stay?

uh oh

It’s all considered “Profit”

That’s right. You’re going to have to self-declare all that as “profit” to you, even if you weren’t monetarily compensated. I know everyone is just doing a double-check now and asking the same question: “So, I’m not paid, but this counts as income?”

“But we don’t actually make any money off our blogs”

That the common refrain, and it’s true. In fact, food bloggers would know that for every tasting we go to, we need to:

  • Take dozens of photos
  • Take plenty of notes for each dish served up
  • Spend the entire evening/afternoon tasting said dishes
  • Take hours to process those photos, edit them and adjust them
  • Spend an hour writing a draft, with reference to Press Releases, etc
  • Spend another hour re-writing the draft then posting the final copy
  • Spend time sharing it on social media, thinking up snazzy copy to interest people

Seriously, I think that for every “free” food tasting, we’ve paid our price in creativity to create salient, good-looking content that people would read. It is not so much a service, as it is a labour of love. Same for hotel reviews and sponsored trips.

The truth is, for all that work, I’m not paid anything. In fact, I’m not making anything. I wish I were paid, and if I were, I’d gladly declare all of that income to the authorities. However, at the moment, I’m only doing this because I love the process of creation. There are plenty of bloggers like me who create for the love of creating, with the purpose of capturing beautiful photos and channeling the essence of what they experienced into words or video. As a collective, we are being penalised for doing something we love.

I think it’s sad, and a little funny, that we’ve come to a point in our county’s storied existence when a channel of expression is taxable. If Singapore is truly trying to set itself up to become a creative hub, then I think there’s still plenty to be done with regard to taxing passion.

11 comments

  1. The government is constantly finding things to tax, and if they can’t tax it, they will ban it.

    Taxing on sponsored products and food tasting is just ridiculous. How do you even declare such values in the first place?

  2. F says:

    I think it’s funny how you link this to taxing creativity. So can we also say that interior designers/artists shouldn’t be taxed on their income because that will discourage them from working and hence, no creativity? On the same note, since you say they are taxing passion, can I say that whatever I’m doing in my office job is my passion and by forcing me to pay income tax, they are stifling my passion?

    The main point of this should be whether non-monetary income should be taxed (and I agree, I don’t think it should be taxed because the value is subjective and it is difficult to enforce), just because they are taxing something “creative” doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taxed.

    • Yes. It actually is pretty extreme to tax avenues of expression that are unpaid.
      In a job, whether passionate or not, you’d actually make financial income. Interior designers get paid in cash for their work.
      I get what you’re trying to say, but I believe once we start taxing sources of non-financial income, we remove incentive for bloggers to share opinions on events they have been invited to, because then, that’s entirely taxable.
      I still think actual revenue from blogs should be taxed.

    • Carrie says:

      Hi F and Kenneth,

      Some good questions to ask ourselves is this:

      1. Are bloggers earning money out of EACH and EVERY engagement? Does their reach justify that to companies?
      2. If no, but they are still invited, WHY? Also, if they are not earning, these events become taxable for something that brings ZERO income to them. WHY?
      3. Should GAMERS be taxed on making money off their accounts? This is just a hobby for some and at most a handful are being paid well for selling their accounts because they are professional at it.
      4. Are content creators like MAGAZINES being asked to declare their total gifted sponsored items from clients or PR agencies? WHY and WHY NOT?

      It’s great we can have this conversation and it’s important that we do.

      The big question here is also:

      5. HOW will this IMPACT smaller businesses who have been relying on the amplification of their brand and promotions through bloggers on a non-paid, invite-only basis?

      6. What are the repercussions for small young hobbyist bloggers who are not earning big money. Are we effectively setting a higher barrier of entry. WHY should we?

      The above two questions are pointing to how we are “taxing creativity”. I don’t think this is a literal reference, more like what the repercussions are when something like this is put in place. If that is not the original intent, then a big question is WHY do it this way?

      Cheers,
      Carrie Sim

      • Janel Ku says:

        Good questions you’ve raised, Carrie. I fear they think this is a good way to regulate blogs that accept advertising jobs. By executing it generally to all bloggers, the ones who are greatly affected are those who do not rake any form of financial income from their blogs whatsoever. I think this mess of a taxing situation may very well result in some undesirable situations. Like:
        – Out of fear of being taxed for the work bloggers put in, more and more bloggers will be encouraged to not declare on their blog that the product is sponsored or a service, endorsed. (readers suffer the brunt)
        – Bloggers to start to charge officially for every tasting, every product review, every event attendance, because at the end, we have to start thinking in monetary terms to ensure we don’t get shortchanged financially too. (smaller businesses with no advertising monies to suffer the brunt)

        And of course, countless repercussions to follow.

      • IF bloggers make actually monetary income, then yes we need to declare.

        A lot of people have been comparing Bloggers to Companies, that companies also declare gifts and stuff sent to them by business partners and that is taxable
        The issues is two-fold here:
        1) Bloggers are not companies. A large number of bloggers don’t use or treat their blogs as businesses. Their blogs are places of opinion and discussion (much like this current discussion)
        2) Bloggers are invited for tasting to share their opinion. We can (and have) do a Dis-service to the companies if we give negative opinions. We are not tethered or beholden to those that ask us for our opinions. It is not a service.

        Lastly, think of all the business lunches with partners: if those are all taxable, what’s the actual future of commerce and relationship building like?

  3. wmulew says:

    I find it ridiculous U’re justifying tax evasion. Maybe all of us should stop paying my taxes as well.

  4. Common sense says:

    You provided a service (review) and received payment (the meal/product to keep).

    What are you crying about? If you truly gave a hoot about creative expression, pay for the things you review, otherwise you’re just in it for the freebies. Don’t claim otherwise.

    • Nope that’s where you’re wrong.
      I have opinions on a product. That isn’t a service, because I’m not obliged to up-lift the premises that provide the meal. Invited food tastings with no obligations should not be considered as a commercial exchange.

      Sponsorships: Yes, absolutely have to be declared. I do not dispute that.

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