Taxing bloggers in Singapore?

I wrote an essay at 3am.

You know when the government, the Instagram, or anyone tries to change an algorithm, critique, attack, or propose a policy about the blogging community... everyone erupts in a flurry of words. You can't get us to shut up, well, because bloggers are hallmarks of what keyboard warriors are. You will get many responses, but I am late to the game (as usual), because I don't get to be free at 3am very often to rant like this. Right. I am still an undergraduate, drowning in assignments (hooray, just pumped out another 2,000-word essay under 48 hours) and upcoming tests, and I'm doing this blogging thing part-time, often at the expense of the quantity of my sleep and quality of my essays. It's tough love. But I go on because I like writing, I like having the feeling of people reading what I write, benefiting from what I recommend and having a good time. So do I support the taxation or not?! Here's an essay on it (and I bet you can't get through half of this mindless 3am rant):

Referring to IRAS Taxation document here, and other relevant IRAS dcuments, I found that you have to hit a minimum of annual chargeable income of $20,000 before you will get taxed. Too many numbers, look at this table and analyze it yourself:

Should I pay to enjoy my 'hobby'?

Most of the knee-jerk reactions from bloggers will be: What the hell? Do you know how much effort, time and money I already put in to make this blogging thing work? Why do I still have to file taxes? 

I wonder if IRAS has done any interviews with bloggers before coming up with this extremely comprehensive list on what is considered taxable, obviously they do not realize the importance of qualitative surveys (and sociology majors! come and exploit my labour please?) in policy-making. It's okay. Now they have a bunch of posts for them to analyze how they should revise their list of taxable items for bloggers.

Because it's reasonable to tax easily quantifiable, mutually agreed monetary payouts to bloggers - no arguments there, yes? - but simply ridiculous to tax products, media gifts and non-paid food tastings. 

Why? Because products, media gifts, events and food tastings are considerably difficult and silly to quantify, and it is highly rude to refuse media gifts received during these events. Chances are, the actual situation during these events occurs as such:

Prior to the event, bloggers receive email inviting them to the event to cover it - I have never received any payment to cover events, I attend purely out of interest or to network. There will probably be a line in the email saying there's a media gift, but usually with brief or no mention of what is inside. I presume it's to entice me to go, since I'm not paid in cash to do this at all.
Side note: Usually the media gift is not a factor in enticing me to go at all, I would head down if I am free just because I am curious by nature - but usually I have too much school to attend events - education is important, ya?
I arrive at event scene, mingle around, gets introduced to whatever the event is about, and receive the media gift pack either at the start or end of the event. 
Therefore... I only know what is inside the media pack when I arrive, and won't know if the items inside are things I actually like/need/want, so it's pretty much a lottery to see the amount that I might potentially be taxed by?! This whole idea is absurd to understand from an insider's point of view, probably because the IRAS taxation is drawn up by someone who is not personally part of the blogging community, hence the confusing statements.

The argument against taxing food tastings is similar, once again, I presume stems from the lack of understanding of how food tastings go. Therefore, I will explain a long-winded version of what happens, because it's 3am and I'm feeling naggy...

Food tastings do not necessarily happen like a regular meal that you go as a regular customer (ie. sit down, order a few regular-portion dishes). Most of the time, to cut down on food wastage and to try more dishes, the F&B outlets serve a smaller portion of each dish. 
So... do we pay 80% of the original price of each dish because it's smaller? Et cetera. I feel silly just trying to justify why it is ridiculous, you get my drift. Most bloggers I know go for food tastings not because we cannot afford or are being too stingy to pay for our own meals, but because

1. Support F&B brands
2. Interested to try new F&B places
3. Feed our blog with content to our readers
4.  We meet fellow bloggers, become friends sharing the same interest

It can get very tiring and some days, my introverted self sincerely prefer to stay at home and eat some heartwarming homecooked food instead. Before I stepped into the scene, or the first few times I went for tastings, I did feel like I 'earned' a lot from these meals that I wouldn't normally splurge on, but after a while it certainly does not feel as satisfying as going as a regular customer. (Probably more on this when I have the time, next 3am post maybe.) Transport fees, time spent travelling there, time spent editing photos, time spent posting... 

Side note: You can file these under employment expenses as well considering the definition: "expenses that are 'wholly and exclusively' incurred in the production of your  employment income  in Singapore. These expenses may be deducted from your employment income as long as they are allowable expenses." ... "The expense may be allowed when the following conditions are satisfied: (1) The expense was incurred while carrying out your official duties; (2) The expense was not reimbursed by your employer; and (3) The expense was not capital or private in nature." - uh, I am my own employer in this case, so I get to decide what is employment expenses  I guess..

But... see the above? Those are the reasons that kept me going regardless how things get tough. Well, I mean if you want to tax us for food tastings, it's slightly more reasonable than products, because after all, each food tasting is consciously agreed upon and accepted. 

However, one thing is certain, if that kicks into place, bloggers will be much more selective in the food tastings they go, only supporting F&B brands that will derive more hits or generate more social interest. The newer cafes or restaurants, especially those without the capacity to engage PR firms, are likely to drown in the sea of emails. 

Here comes the million dollar question is... do I support taxation on bloggers?

Much of the argument follows that with taxation, bloggers will become more respected as a profession, et cetera. Pro-ba-bly, I have my doubts on that, just because bloggers have bragging rights and higher moral ground to say they file taxes, will our/their status automatically be elevated? I don't think so, because the undesirable image of bloggers come from characteristics such as being arrogant (see Singapore bloggers threaten Bali villa owner), bitchy (see Gushcloud vs Nuffnang saga), cheapo (see Janiqueel saga), plastic/fake (see... Xiaxue?), sellouts... all of these claims will not be miraculously repealed overnight just because we file taxes anyway...

That shouldn't be the reason why we should or shouldn't file taxes. 

Obviously, I do not support filing taxes because there'll be less disposable income for myself (ha ha, duh #honest)... but or rather, these terms stated are rather ridiculous and impractical. Perhaps by limiting the terms to monetary payment, it would be much more meaningful.

The argument on how it is tiring enough to blog.. I understand it, I won't get on the moral high horse to say we shouldn't complain over our hobby... because it's truly tough love, something we hate to love and enjoy... but it holds no ground on the matter of taxation which is by law a responsibility if you derive income within the territory of Singapore. The practical functionality of taxation is to 'minimize revenue volatility and enhance Singapore’s fiscal sustainability by keeping the tax base wide through both corporate and personal income tax' (Info plagarized and rephrased from MFA) and is not a specific attack upon the blogging community. We live in Singapore Inc., what do you expect? The Blogging department has got to pay their dues now...

However, it is just one of the many stifling moves from the government that limits creative and freedom of expression, which I believe is down a slippery slope that will extend towards home-based bakers, artists, and artisans running individual businesses in future. We'll see. 

By the way, the inspiration for this post was that I saw some really bitchy cross-fire arguments between some bloggers who screenshot the comments regarding this matter and calling it the 'stupidest and most childish argument', 'yaoguis and wannabes' (you *might* be able to find the post if you google all these key words). Whoa, that's not the way to improve the reputation of the blogger community yo. But then again... in the media arena, no publicity/hype/gossip(!!!) is bad publicity. So long.

Till the next 3am post (it's already 4! gasp)


a travel and food blogger with a constant longing to be somewhere to makes her feel alive ☆ life's an adventure

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