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Tax Tips for Content Creators

Updated for Tax Year 2021 • August 24, 2022 01:37 PM


OVERVIEW

Social media content creators are part of a relatively new profession. Categorized as self-employed by the IRS, influencers and content creators may be able to take advantage of certain deductions.


A social media influencer with short hair and a beard records a video at home

Questions and answers for content creators

Earning money by sharing your knowledge and talent online can be exciting, whether you’re a YouTuber, Instagram influencer, or other content creator. You’re the expert! And people are willing to pay you for what you know. It can be rewarding, too, as your social media followers grow and revenue streams in. Keeping track of your income and your expenses is vital to the accurate filing of your taxes. Here are answers to common tax questions for content creators and influencers.

Which tax forms do content creators receive?

Whether you’re a social media influencer, performer, blogger, or other online content creator, you're responsible for reporting the income you receive from your online activities. Because you are self-employed, you won't receive a W-2 from the companies that sponsor you. Instead, you'll receive a Form 1099-NEC from each partner that pays you $600 or more. Keep in mind that you are required to report all income that you received on your tax return, even if it is less than $600.

Do influencers pay taxes on gifts?

Many companies provide social media influencers with clothing and gear to gain exposure for their products. For example, you may receive a branded hoodie, cosmetics, or even tech equipment to use for a photo shoot or for a video. Generally, if the content creator or influencer is expected to perform a service in exchange for the gift, then it may be taxable. There are exceptions and every situation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

How do content creators report their taxable income?

Whether your online activities are a full-time job or just a side gig, they're considered a business. Filing taxes for content creators follows the same process as other self-employed individuals.  As a result, you report your income from your content creation activities on Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business. Schedule C is also the tax form you use to report the expenses and deductions related to your content creation business. Subtracting your content creator tax write-offs from your gross income will yield the net profit or loss from your business.  Tax forms for social media influencers are the same ones many small businesses use.

What expenses can I deduct as an influencer or content creator?

The IRS recognizes that many expenses are ordinary and necessary for running a successful business. As a result, you can deduct the cost of goods and services that are tied to your business on Schedule C. Content creator and influencer write-offs can include electronics, office furniture, advertising, supplies, domain and hosting fees, and insurance. If an item, such as a computer or mobile phone, does double duty for business and personal use, you can only deduct the portion of the expense related to the business use.

If you work from home, and have a studio or office reserved full time for business use, you might be able to deduct a portion of your household expenses, including your rent, house payment, and utilities. These expenses can be calculated individually or by using a formula provided by the IRS for deducting an office in the home.

What if my business shows a loss?

Sometimes your deductible expenses will outpace your earnings. Showing a business loss is perfectly acceptable. However, if your content creation or influencer activity consistently fails to earn a profit, the IRS might categorize it as a hobby. In that case, the IRS will disallow your business tax deductions.

The easiest way to show that your content creation is a legitimate business is to report a profit. If your business shows a profit in three of the last five tax years, the IRS normally will view it as a bona fide business. The IRS may also consider the amount of time you put into your business and whether or not it's likely to earn profits in the future.

Who pays my Social Security and Medicare taxes?

When you are an employee of a company, both you and your employer contribute toward your Social Security and Medicare taxes. But when you have your own business, you pay both the employer and employee portions of the Social Security and Medicare taxes. These combined taxes are known as the self-employment tax. This tax is separate from your income tax, and you must pay it on the profits from your business, even if you don't owe federal income tax.

When do content creators pay taxes?

Just as traditional businesses pay withholding and Social Security taxes to the IRS throughout the year, you as a business owner must make tax payments to the IRS on a regular schedule, rather than waiting for the April 15 income tax deadline. To make these payments, you need to estimate the taxes you'll owe for the year and then divide by four, because the payments are due in equal amounts, on a quarterly basis. The estimated tax deadlines typically are April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15. Failing to make payments on time can result in a tax penalty. Normally, you don't have to make quarterly tax payments if your tax obligation in the prior year was less than $1,000.

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