Here's my experience and viewpoint as an Amazon purchaser and also a serious Vine reviewer.

Reader comment on: Taxing Review Copies

Submitted by Kathleen San Martino (United States), Jul 2, 2015 19:02

I've been an Amazon junkie since 2002 because I love their prices, selection, service, and reviewer opinions. I have spent good money over the years buying merchandise of both excellent and poor quality from Internet and local sources. I wanted to let others know what I felt was good and not so good and why, so posting an Amazon review became a forum for the products that I purchased. This was my way of enabling others to make informed purchase decisions, spend dollars wisely, and not lose money like I had so many times.

In August 2008 I was invited to join the Amazon Vine program because the Amazon Community found my reviews helpful. I decided to make this my hobby and initially selected anything I was capable of reviewing or which aroused my interest whether I needed it or not. After about 6 months I became more selective because I was throwing out up to 80% of the products as garbage.

Before this new tax was introduced, I continued to select products that interested me or products that I could put to good use--such as dog food for my friend's animal shelter or a toy for a friend's child. I still found that up to 40% of the products were marginal (like the umbrella that would usually not open) or garbage (like the bird waterer that would not hold water). In addition, some of these products cost me money to review. I had to purchase memory cards, cell service I did not want or need, photo or other specialty paper, etc. I also put a lot of effort into my reviews and even continue to update old reviews if the product has failed prematurely or if I have something noteworthy to say like when a soil sample I was given grows vibrant plants.

Amazon Vine products were never really free in my opinion. Every product requires effort on the part of the recipient and in some cases requires additional purchases just to complete or perform a satisfactory review. Also, failed products sometimes require extensive cleanup like I had to do several times when hummingbird feeders leaked red nectar all over my siding and on my outdoor carpet. One product almost sent me to the doctor with a major rash. In addition, many of these products are pre-release or Advance Reader Copy (ARC); they are not worth the fair market value (FMV) as the "kinks" have not yet been worked out. Oftentimes the benefit we appear to get is not actually so. For instance, we usually get one of a multiple product item, such as one spoon/fork/knife, one cup of a four cup set, one bar of soap out of 16 bars, one can of juice, one towel in a set of towels, etc.

As of July 1, I will now be extremely selective and only pick items that I think will not be junk and which I alone can use. That means no dog food for the shelter, no more trial food for the cats, or toys for the children. This new tax rule is indirectly stifling e-commerce because I believe other ethical Vine reviewers will be more selective too--especially when we incur direct or indirect costs to review a product only to find it substandard or useless; to pay taxes on that too only makes this negative income.

This means purchasers will have a harder time making informed purchase decisions because fewer people will be reviewing the pre-release and just-released merchandise. When a product is exceptional, others buy it which stimulates the economy. When a product is inferior, the manufacturer now has an incentive to make it better as a result of the review. However, as serious Vine reviewers become more selective those products will not be front and center. Why should I pay with my effort, money spent for additional purchases to review or to clean up the messes made by faulty merchandise, and then have to pay income taxes on all the items (up to 40% of which is inferior) as if I benefited in full--all for the chance of finding a quality item. I consider that an insult.

The IRS has also taken the fun out of my hobby which I am seriously thinking of quitting. After all, I have everything I need. Although I do very much enjoy and benefit from a few of the products just like others have benefited from my reviews, some items are just catching dust or have been filling up the landfill. I also have no intention of reselling substandard merchandise; that is as unethical as collecting tax on items that are not actually income.

PS I would not be surprised if coupons are taxed as earned income in the next couple of years.

Kathleen San Martino

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Other reader comments on this item

Title By Date
⇒ Here's my experience and viewpoint as an Amazon purchaser and also a serious Vine reviewer. [799 words]Kathleen San MartinoJul 2, 2015 19:02
taxation sounds scary! [64 words]jfMay 5, 2019 17:49
If gifts from employeers are taxable
[w/response] [124 words]
LyleJun 24, 2015 22:04
If it moves, tax it [5 words]Andrew TerhuneJun 24, 2015 21:23

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