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chrisnameinuse
Returning Member

Hi, I stream on Twitch and I'm trying to figure out how to report my income as far as donations - do those fall under income, or gifts? And either way, how do I report?

I know payouts fall under self-employment income - do I just add my donations to that?
3 Replies
rjs
Level 15
Level 15

Hi, I stream on Twitch and I'm trying to figure out how to report my income as far as donations - do those fall under income, or gifts? And either way, how do I report?

They're not donations or gifts. It's all just more self-employment income. So yes, you add the "donations" to your other self-employment income.

 

chrisnameinuse
Returning Member

Hi, I stream on Twitch and I'm trying to figure out how to report my income as far as donations - do those fall under income, or gifts? And either way, how do I report?

Thank you! I had assumed that but I also read something that said otherwise so I wanted to be sure.

BillM223
Employee Tax Expert

Hi, I stream on Twitch and I'm trying to figure out how to report my income as far as donations - do those fall under income, or gifts? And either way, how do I report?

It is unfortunate that the streaming content services use the word "donation" because this is NOT the meaning that these amounts have to the IRS.

 

Instead, you are correct to treat the "donations" as self-employment income.

 

Please see the following article I wrote some time ago on my take on the tax treatment for streamers (specifically Twitch) and their customers:

 

***

 

In reading your post (thank you) and the Wikipedia article (I am a volunteer editor there), this is my takeaway of Twitch vis-à-vis tax law.

 

A "streamer" is a person who creates content that is streamed on the Twitch platform. This content can take a variety of forms, but is focused primarily on gaming (does this mean that a lot of the content is streamed online video games, where subscribers watch well-known gamers play?).

 

***Note for the rest of the audience - see this article on how to make a living being a streamer which describes how streamers monetize their content.***

 

Now that it is clear that you can make money from being a streamer, the salient tax question is, "are you doing this with the intent of making a profit?" That is, are you doing this as a hobby where you might (incidentally) make money or are you doing this with the intent to make a profit (i.e., a "business")?

 

If you are doing this with the intention of making a profit (like Destiny in the above link), then this is clearly a business, which would be reported on Schedule C (assuming that you are not a partnership or corporation). Any income that you receive would be income to the business and any legitimate business expenses would be deductible. The IRS says that to be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. Obviously, what is ordinary and necessary varies wildly between industries.

 

With this understanding, let's look at some common terminology:

 

Donations are money given indirectly (using an in-site currency known as "Bits", purchased through Amazon Payments) to a channel. A "partner channel" is under "the Partner Program (which) allows popular content producers to share in the advertisement revenue generated from their streams. Additionally, Twitch users can subscribe to partnered streamers' channels for US$4.99 a month, often granting the user access to unique emoticons, live chat privileges, and other various perks. Twitch retains US$2.49 of every US$4.99 channel subscription, with the remaining US$2.50 going directly to the partnered streamer." (from Wikipedia). The partner (i.e. the content creator or streamer) gets some or all of the "donations".

 

It appears to me that "donations" are like tips to a waiter or concierge, voluntary contributions to a service provider. In this case, the streamer (Partner) reports the "donations" as ordinary income on Schedule C. The donor, however, cannot take this as a contribution, because contributions are deductible ONLY when they are given to an IRS-recognized charity.

 

As for the "networking”, I am wondering if this is a euphemism for advertising expenses or other money paid to increase your content's exposure and salability. If so, then the so-called "networking expenses" would be deductible as an "ordinary and necessary" business expense on Schedule C for the partner streamer. (Apparently there are also other classes of streamers like "affiliates" who might also legitimately claim that their activity is a for-profit business).

 

NOTE: for users of Twitch, there are no deductible expenses, any more than you can deduct buying comic books or music videos. The comments above are primarily for people engaged in the business of generating and delivering content through Twitch.

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