This is my first PSA on the blog. I don’t usually post stuff that’s such a downer, but this is┬ádeserving of public awareness:

Go read this. Right now. I’ll wait. (Since the post this referred to has been taken down, the salient points are quoted below:)

First the warning: If you have a Web site, and you ever put Google ads on it, and you ever made a penny off those ads, congratulations! The Internal Revenue Service owns you.

According to the IRS you are a private contractor employed by Google; you are a business; and you will have to pay business taxes and the rates that go along with them. Doesn’t matter how big you are, how long ago you put those ads there, or whether you made $20 or $20,000 off them.

Did you know that? I didn’t. I had to start putting Google ads on etymonline in 2005, because people kept ripping the entire content at one gulp and it was crashing the servers. Some of you regulars might even remember that time. The only solution was to rent more expensive servers, and the only way I could afford that was to minimally monetize the site with the smallest possible ads.

I had been declaring that ad revenue as “extra income” and dutifully paying my taxes on it. Suddenly last year the IRS informed me I owed them scads of money that I didn’t have. (Originally posted on the Online Etymology Dictionary)

Then think long and hard about whether or not using Google ads* on your professional website, personal blog, or online family photo album is worth it. The answer might be yes if you are running a business, but for many of us it may not add up.

In a nutshell, any income made from Google ads** counts as business income and all the taxes that go with it. And if you haven’t been paying that, all the additional penalties.

Knowledge is power–use it wisely. And pay your taxes!

*For the record, I am typically very much in favor of all things Google. This is not their fault. Though I would love, love, love for it to turn out to be one giant misunderstanding.

**Not to be confused with Adwords.

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