Bloggers taken by surprise by IRAS letter on taxable income

Bloggers taken by surprise by IRAS letter on taxable income

938LIVE reports: The memo received by bloggers states that all non-monetary benefits “may be taxable and must be declared”. One blogger said it was the first time she received such a letter.

SINGAPORE: Some members of Singapore’s blogging community have expressed surprise at a letter they have received from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) clarifying income components - including products or services received via their websites - which need to be declared as part of their annual Income Tax Return.

938LIVE has seen pictures of the letter in question. The memo states that all non-monetary benefits, including sponsorship of products or services received in return for writing or reviewing the sponsors’ products “may be taxable and must be declared”.

Prominent blogger Wendy Cheng, or Xiaxue, told 938LIVE this is the first time she has received such a letter from IRAS.

Ms Cheng said while she is aware that income generated from her website is subjected to tax, it is “difficult” to declare certain benefits-in-kind.

“If someone sends me a lipstick, am I supposed to go find out how much it costs and declare it? Other things like, for example, some fans give me something that’s handmade, how do I put a value on that?”

“Either that or I have to send it back to the company, but that’s very nasty. It’s like saying: 'I don’t like your product'; so it doesn’t make sense to me,” she added.


The IRAS letter sent to bloggers

Kenneth Lee, who blogs on www.5meanders.com wrote: “I think it’s sad, and a little funny, that we’ve come to a point in our country’s storied existence when a channel of expression is taxable.”

Local blogger Alvin Lim, who owns alvinology.com and asia361.com, told Channel NewsAsia the move by IRAS seemed “stringent and rather extreme”.

“If this is really true, it will kill the whole blogging scene. Who will go for food tastings now? IRAS also has to be fair to bloggers - most of us are one-man shows with no resources to do these things,” he said, adding that he presently files taxes under a registered company.

Mr Lim also noted that it would be “double standards” if the same were not applied to media companies. “Do journalists file taxes for media gifts, food tastings, family trips or media junkets?” he asked.

938LIVE understands that IRAS sent the letter as part of its regular engagement with the self-employed and is not meant to target or clamp down on bloggers.

Social media marketing firm Gushcloud said it is aware that the letter has been sent to bloggers under its management, adding that it regularly holds workshops and 1-on-1 meetings to answer their questions on the filing of their taxes.

A food blogger who declined to be identified said he has always been aware of the need to declare the benefits he received through his blog.

More information on what bloggers need to declare can be found here.

Source: 938LIVE/ek