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Mom Bloggers and Taxes (and the Myth of the Swag Hag)

By cecilyk |

It’s highly likely that the only community showered with swag as heartily as celebrities (check out those $100,000 Oscar swag bags!) are mom bloggers. Conferences that cater to mom bloggers are well known for their expo halls full of sponsors eagerly pushing product samples into the equally eager hands of the mom bloggers visiting the booths.

Does this mean that mom bloggers are swag hags? There are certainly plenty of horror stories out there about mom bloggers behaving greedily; babies being elbowed in the head in the rush to get a swag bag, bloggers threatening the brand reps of products for not having their product available for them, and bloggers being accused of being “swag hoarders.”

But this is only part of the story.

The truth is this: products are thrown at us. Some mom bloggers enjoy getting free products, trips, hotel stays, and more.

I get, personally, roughly ten product pitches a day – and I’m not a review blogger. In fact, I review maybe five products a year, and then only to lighten my budget on gift buying for my kid or for a product I really fall in love with. My blogging friends that do product reviews tell me that they receive so many pitches a week that they can’t keep up with their email.

But there’s something we mom bloggers might not be thinking enough about, and that’s TAXES. As they say, the only thing you can count on in life is death and taxes, and well, taxes on swag are an issue in the mom blogging community.

In 2006, the IRS reached an agreement with the organizers of the Oscars, declaring that those high end swag bags actors and other folks receive as gifts were, in fact, taxable. OUCH. Today most bloggers consider swag gifts, and therefore not taxable. When I asked bloggers if they claimed swag on their taxes I heard a variety of answers: “only products used as fodder for a blog (meaning not free stuff at conferences)”, “only if an actual income is earned through blogging”, and “only if the products are worth more than $600.”

The truth is actually this: if it’s ad revenue, it’s taxable. If it’s a free trip you received, it’s taxable. If it was worth less than $600 and you didn’t receive a tax form, it’s still taxable.

It’s ALL taxable.

I’m hoping to follow this up with an in depth interview with Kelly Erbs, known as @TaxGirl with more details. Stay tuned.

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About cecilyk



Cecily Kellogg writes all over the web, including here at Babble for Voices and Tech. She neglects her own blog, Uppercase Woman. Read bio and latest posts → Read Cecily's latest posts →

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6 thoughts on “Mom Bloggers and Taxes (and the Myth of the Swag Hag)

  1. Heather says:

    I claim everything, but I am also verrrrrrrry particular about what I take. If I want to be taken seriously, I have to treat everything seriously, and that means being honest and legit on my taxes.

  2. Cat Davis says:

    Hmmm that’s interesting and definitely something to think about. I asked my tax professional the first year I started blogging and he said there wasn’t any need to claim products received, only cash/check income.

  3. MainlineMom says:

    This is why product alone is not generally adequate compensation for a sponsored campaign. The IRS does not accept coffee makers.

  4. Kimberly/Foodie City Mom says:

    Interesting. I’m one of those bloggers who gives away practically everything except for the things that I absolutely love, because I reported what I kept as earnings.

    After tax season though, a friend mentioned that her tax attorney said that she didn’t have to pay taxes on review items. Boy, was I bummed. I need to use HER tax attorney next year…or not. Blogging is still such a relatively new industry that I don’t think that there is an across the board consensus among tax professionals regarding what does/does not get taxed.

  5. GIna says:

    I don’t get why swag needs to be claimed as taxable when you consider that book reviewers are sent books every day–some get reviewed, some don’t–and they don’t claim those. Movie reviewers get in free to theaters daily for their “job” and don’t claim the ticket price on taxes. If a company sends me product unsolicited, and it’s not payment for services rendered, why would I have to claim it?

  6. Ana L. Flores says:

    I also don’t understand which trips are considered free and which can be claimed as work?
    I mean, most of the trips I’ve been to have been because a brand wanted to take me to headquarters, or have us for a focus group, etc. If I need to claim those, then can’t I turn around and expense the trip as business? Am I making any sense?

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