What Kind of Income is Adsense Income from Hubpages for Tax Purposes?

Up until recently, I hadn't received anything for my writing on Hubpages, and the whole idea of generating income from writing hubs seemed like more of a joke than a plan for the future. However, this year I received my first Google payout, and the next payout looks to be not too far in the future. Next year, I will report this income to the IRS. So the question occurred to me: what kind of income is this, for tax purposes?

Not Passive Income

For about two years now, I have seen people in the forums claim that Google Adsense income from Hubpages is passive income. Why do they say this? Well, because we don't get paid for working, and we don't get paid less when we don't work. Hubpages income, paid through affiliate programs, is completely unrelated to the number of hours we work, how hard we work or any direct effort that we put into our work.

For nearly two years, I worked tirelessly on my Hubs and got paid nothing. What I was paid this year was a return on the investment that I made many months ago. I don't get paid by the word or by the page, and quite frankly I don't get paid for writing well, or for any other technical, measurable criterion. I get paid when the words I put together miraculously generate income as ad copy, even though that's not originally why I wrote them.

Here's another reason many hubbers think of their adsense income as passive income. I could stop writing today, and I could keep my hubs up, and they would continue to generate income all on their own. I could go on a vacation, or get hit by a truck and fall into a coma, and I would still earn from the hubs I have already produced. In fact, I could die, and my heirs would continue to collect income from my hubs. If the economy doesn't completely collapse, if Google and Hubpages don't go brankrupt, my hubs could continue to generate income for my children, my grandchildren, and future generations of humans and chimpanzees as yet unborn.

Now that definitely sounds like "passive income". Only it's not. Not for tax purposes.

Types of Income according to the Tax Code

The Internal Revenue Code recognizes three basic kinds of income:

  • passive -- which includes rents and income from a business in which the taxpayer does not materially participate
  • earned -- which includes payment in return for work, employment income and income earned from running a business as an active participant
  • unearned -- royalties, interest, dividends, pensions, annuities and other specifically named benefits.

Passive income is good to have, because you are allowed to carry forward losses. Unearned income is good to have, because it is not subject to social security taxes, which fall disproportionately on those who earn less. (You only pay social security or self-employment taxes on your first $106,800, and anything above that sum is free from that tax.) Earned income is good to have only if you hope to receive public benefits, such as the "earned income credit" or if you wish to eventually collect social security or disability benefits.

For those of us who want to live and let live, passive income and unearned income are preferable. But where do we stand with Google Adsense? What kind of income is that?

Not Unearned Income

From the above description of the categories, it's reasonable to conclude that revenue from Adsense is not passive income for tax purposes. If you own rental property, the rents you receive, no matter how hard you had to work at your rental business, are considered passive income by definition. In every other case, you have to show complete uninvolvement with the business in order to claim that the income is passive.

Why this rule about rent? Ours not to reason why. It just is, so let's move on.

The next possibility is that Adsense revenue might fall into the category of "unearned income", just like royalties. After all, in their help page, Hubpages refers to our earnings as "royalties."

However, the word "royalties" is always in quotes, and it is used interchangeably with the word "commissions." Commissions, of course, fall into the category of earned income. In any event, none of this information from Hubpages is about tax liability.

So let's go and see how Google reports our income to the IRS.

Google Thinks We Are Independent Contractors

Google requires us to file a W9 form in order to receive payment and they report our income to the IRS using a Form 1099.

Google considers us to be independent publishers and hence it grants us a Publisher ID. The revenue we are paid from Adsense is like ad revenue received by a publisher from an advertiser. But rather than being in an arms-length transaction with Adsense, the way an independent publisher is with its many advertisers, we are seen as independent contractors working for Google. In other words, they don't ask for the privilege of posting ads on our content. They see us as creating content to go with their ads!

We are not employees, because they do not pay us a wage, and they do not tell us precisely how or what to write. But we are also not receiving royalties in return for granting them the right to publish our content. We are writing ad copy for them, and they are paying us a commission on sales generated.

Well, anyway, it seems to be something like that. That's not my view of my relationship with Google -- it's theirs! It stands to reason that their view will prevail when it comes to assessing taxes.

Adsense Income is Earned Income

If we are independent contractors with Google, then all our revenue from Adsense is earned income and subject to not only regular income taxes, but also self-employment taxes. If I even earn so much as $400.00 per year from Adsense, then I will have to pay, according to the social security report I recently received in the mail: "12.4 percent in social security taxes and 2.9 percent in Medicare taxes" on net earnings.

That's a really big bite out of a very small sum. Of course, I could avoid incurring these taxes by making sure never to reach the $400.00 threshhold. I could turn off my ads to all my hubs the moment Adsense shows that I am close to earning $399.99 for the year. But that seems like an awful lot of work for something that was touted as "passive" income!

(c) 2010 Aya Katz

DISCLAIMER: I am not a tax professional nor an employee of the Internal Revenue Service. The article you have just read represents my lay opinion and should not be relied upon in order to make any projections or decisions concerning your income or how to report it. Please refer to the Internal Revenue Service, the Tax Code or a tax professional in order to make informed decisions about your own income, how to report it, or what tax category it falls under. Please do not rely on any statements in this article to your own detriment. No representation has been made about the accuracy of the information presented.

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Comments 55 comments

Joni Douglas profile image

Joni Douglas 6 years ago

Haven't even thought that far, so thanks for bringing it our attention.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Joni! I've only just now begun to think about this myself.

KeithTax profile image

KeithTax 6 years ago from Wisconsin

Good hub, Aya. People need to think about taxes if they intend to make money from Amazon, eBay, and Google. So readers understand, all this income is self-employment income. Profits over $432 is subject to self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare).

If you have large enough profits, you may be able to avoid some SE taxes with an LLC treated as an S corp. I have several hubs on the topic if anyone is interested.

If you make money online, bookmark Aya's hub. It is a good reference. Also, have a tax pro help you do it right. Taxes are bad enough without penalties.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Keith Tax, thanks for your comment and for adding information to my hub. Has the threshold for self-employment taxes gone up to $432 now? I need keep up to date! I will look into some of your hubs about minimizing tax liability.

KeithTax profile image

KeithTax 6 years ago from Wisconsin

Aya, it is really $400, but SE income is defined as SE profit multiplied by 92.35%. This is to account for half of the SE tax that is deductible if you were a corp paying employment taxes. It comes out to $433,actually.

Remember, this is on profits only. If your only SE income is $500 and you have $80 in expenses, you have a profit of $420. $420 x 92.35% = $387.87. This is under $400 so no SE tax is payable that year.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Keith Tax, thanks for the clarification. But I guess the moment $400.00 in Adsense earnings is reported as income on your 1099, you will have to file the schedule, even if you don't end up having to pay the SE tax. Is that right?

Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

I don't think I will ever see a payout with Adsense, since I have to make a min. amount to get paid. I always thought over $600 was the magic mark to claim.

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

Thanks for shedding light on this Aya - I've never thought about it and just add the amount to my taxable income. Your hub has thrown up a number of relevant and interesting questions though!

H P Roychoudhury profile image

H P Roychoudhury 6 years ago from Guwahati, India

What's wrong if there be any secondary engagement as well as income.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Sandyspider, don't give up on revenue from Adsense. It takes a really long time, but it does eventually come. I don't know where you got the $600 number, but for purposes of avoiding filing on self-employment income, the threshold is $400. You might still not end up paying anything unless you make $432, as Keith Tax suggested, but you have to file it and go through the trouble of preparing a schedule SE.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Shalini, thanks! I'm not sure any of this applies to you. If you are not doing business in the United States, then you are probably exempt from all of this and are subject to different laws in your own country. This is just part of the crazy mess that the U.S. Tax Code requires us to wade through.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

H.P. Roychoudhury, thanks for your comment. Are you asking why the Tax Code encourages people not to work and privileges unearned and passive income over earned income? It's a big, big ideological mess. Social security taxes are regressive taxes intended to "take care" of people who work but earn very little. In reality, they keep many of us from earning much, because there is such a disincentive for anyone to earn more than $399.99 in a year by his own effort and without the aid of an employer!

Of course, regular income taxes are progressive taxes that discourage people with a high income from earning more. So you could say that the system discourages work at both ends of the earning spectrum.

Hummingbird5356 profile image

Hummingbird5356 6 years ago

If you earn a lot then this is something to consider. I have earned less than £1 in the months I have been writing hubs. I should think it will be a long time before I need to think about the taxman.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hummingbird, thanks for your comment. It's not that unusual not to have made anything in the first six months, so don't give up. You will eventually start making an income from your hubs, and at the point your own country's rules about self-employment income will come into play.

KeithTax profile image

KeithTax 6 years ago from Wisconsin

Aya, you only file Schedule SE if the tax is due. Remember the $432 threshhold. If you make more, you must file Schedule SE, less, and you don't.

To Sandyspider: If they pay you $600 or greater they will issue you and the IRS a 1099 on the amount paid you. All income is reportable.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

KeithTax, thanks for your additional informative comment. While all income is reportable as general income on your 1040, isn't it true though that a Schedule C (Profit or Loss from Business) is not required if you've got earnings below $400.00?

seamist profile image

seamist 6 years ago from Northern Minnesota

I think I read somewhere on the internet that Google does not report your earnings to the IRS until you have made $600.00 or more. I didn't make that much last year, and I received no tax statements from Google.

KeithTax profile image

KeithTax 6 years ago from Wisconsin

Yikes, Aya! ALL SE income is reportable. All. Now, if you have no expenses, you can slide the income on the front page of 1040 and file Schedule SE if required, but it is all reportable. However, if you only received $400, it is doubtful you received a 1099 (or the IRS). But my job is to call it like it is.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Seamist, Keith Tax is right. Under the law, all income is reportable as income, regardless of whether you received a statement.

Keith Tax, I wasn't suggesting for a moment that any income can go unreported under the law. My specific question to you was about filing a Schedule C. I was under the impression that we can just include earnings from self-employment in the 1040 without filling out a Schedule C if the sum is below $400.00. Is that wrong? Do we need to file a Schedule C in any case?

KeithTax profile image

KeithTax 6 years ago from Wisconsin

A Schedule C is not required no matter how much SE income you have. Just enter the income on the front page of Form 1040 and on Schedule SE. Of course, you can not take any deductions on this income unless you file Schedule C.

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hubpageswriter 6 years ago

The income tax thing can be really taxing. Thanks for this hub, for enlightening some stuffs which might not come across my mind at all.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Keith Tax. So Schedule C is just for purposes of deductions from business income. Back when I used to have a lot of earned income, I remember having to feed it through Schedule C in order to determine if I had to file Schedule SE or not. But I guess that was on account of the deductions to determine my net profit. The way I looked at it back then, if I had less than $400.00 in earnings, I didn't even need to fiddle with the deductions, because there would not be any SE taxes, anyway.

That's why to me, getting $400.00 in reported earned income means "Oh, my goodness,that means I'd better find something to deduct on Schedule C."

It may be a silly way to look at, but that's why earned income over $399.99 always spelled: file a Schedule C for sure, and SE maybe.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hubpageswriter, right! Very taxing! I think that people who don't file their own taxes don't get quite as angry and frustrated by the system as those who do, because even though they end up paying more, they don't see the whole process unfold. People who have an employer are spared some of it, because they get their taxes withheld and so they are never even in possession of the money. Those who are employed and also don't calculate their own taxes may think they get a big bonus every time the IRS returns some of their own money to them when the tax year is over.

OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 6 years ago


It is amazing on how many hoops some people are willing to go through just to play the google game.

Why would anyone want to do all that work and for such small sums of money. It would be one thing if the money was tax free, but adding the overhead to handling taxes just doesn't seem to be worth it.

You also have one more tax item that can trigger an audit. Even if you are clean, do you really want the hassle of an audit. On its own the google money won't do that, but added to your regular income it can generate flags.

It just doesn't seem to warrant the time and effort to make a dime.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Opinion Duck, you have a point, but you might as well wonder if it's worth it to earn any money at all. I used to be an independent lawyer, and I worked so hard not to turn a profit every year, because I didn't want to pay self-employment taxes. Most years, regular income tax was not even a possibility, because my income was so low. But SE taxes were killers, so to avoid them, I would blow all my wad on printers and papers and work really hard to amortize and depreciate until it showed that I didn't have $400.00 in profit.

Nowadays, most of my income is unearned income. I'm basically retired. But... this thing with Google is not primarily to earn money. It's because it gives me a high page rank and earns me visibility and readership. The monetary inducement is not so much for me, but for Google to allow my pages to show high in a search.

Despite everything that the establishment is doing to hush up my work with Bow, if you look up "ape language studies" in Google, a couple of my pages show up in the top ten.


joem555 6 years ago

just the info i was looking for thankyou very much

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Joem555, thanks! I'm glad this helps.

World-Traveler profile image

World-Traveler 6 years ago from USA

All of this is a little discouraging. Some people who travel alot may be making their Hubpages postings from four or more different countries. By the time they pay their tax due in all those countries, what's left?

Perhaps the best place to make Hubpages postings is from the moon. Then again, if what I heard is correct, the moon is owned by all countries. If that is correct, then anyone posting on Hubpages from the moon would have to pay tax to all countries, then, what's left after that? Zilch!

One possibility... charge yourself ten or twenty dollars an hour for writing on Hubpages and keep receipts. Then you have a business expense, which should be tax deductible.

Incredible having to pay tax on any income over $400 when many international corporations escape paying any taxes at all.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

World-Traveler, I share your dismay! Of course, it's unfair.

As for posting from the moon, I don't think that would work, for a number of reasons. For one thing, Google expects us to provide a physical address on earth, and a phone number to go with it, and they actually have the audacity to check up on you to see that you really live where you said you live. They phone back, and if you don't answer, you don't get an account. They send a PIN to the physical address you gave, and if you don't input the PIN, then you get your ads cut off.

They don't seem to want any itinerants or homeless people on their payroll!

OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 6 years ago


I understand and appreciate your point.

My point is that google is making millions at the expense of those hubbers and others that follow the carrot. Earning pennies and a few dollars is not real money, it is less than minimum wage for hubbers. Yet, google can aggregate these pennies into millions because of millions of people that toil for them.

Google in my opinion is more like a non hostile pimp.

Neither google nor Uncle Sam gives you any help with the problems that you encounter toiling for them, yet they are the first to reap any wealth that you might have stumbled onto.

Oh don't forget Hubpages, they are also making money on your toil.

I use the word toil because of its negative connotation.

To use the word work would connote a sense of a worthy task that generates a reward beyond the accomplishment of a task.

My comment is no reflection on the hubbers, it is focused on google, hubpages and Uncle Sam.


Mr Nice profile image

Mr Nice 6 years ago from North America

Shalom Aya,

Your hub is very informative & I understand many people are concerned about income & taxes. When people are employed they pay half of Social security & Medicare taxes. But when they are self employed they pay both.

You or anybody making Google income doesn’t have to worry about taxes. When people are self employed they have several deductible business expenses. Whatever is left over that is your net income or profit.

Therefore you pay tax on the net income. Here is the calculation formula.......

Business Revenues

- Business Expenses

= Profit or loss from Business

X 92.35%

Net Earnings from Self-Employment

X 15.3%

= SE Tax

If you are expecting to make $400 or even $1000 or more after business expense deductions, may tax will be $0 Zero.

45 Tax Deductions for Freelance Writers


I found these links & just want to share as information because every tax situation is different therefore please consult a tax professional.

In any case if you do end up paying Social security & Medicare taxes it is good because you are saving for your future. All the best & have a wonderful day.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Opinion Duck, I understand your position, but I don't completely agree. I personally would feel better if our income on Hubpages were treated for tax purposes as passive income. It is not toil. We are not paid by the word, by the hour or for our effort. We are paid for a hub long after we've finished writing. We can take a vacation from writing hubs, and we still get paid. We can die, and we still get paid! This is not toil. It is a return on investment. It's completely unrelated to the effort that we put into it.

For this reason, I am very disappointed that Google did not choose to help us classify our income as royalties or some other kind of passive income.

For those people who feel exploited, because they think they are being paid for toil, there is always the choice of opting out. Many "socialist minded people" who felt this way did in fact leave Hubpages and took down their hubs rather than wait for their hubs to ripen and to reap the reward, not of toil or labor, but for making an investment in the future.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Mr. Nice, I'm not sure that you understood my explanation of how the current situation with SE taxes makes most small business owners save less than they might have. In order to have deductible expenses, so that we don't show a profit, many self-employed people spend their hard earned money on business expenses they would not otherwise undertake, just so they can deduct them. This is because they don't want to participate in the social security and medicare programs.

Do you think it is fair for the only way to save money when your self-employment income is low to be to buy into the welfare state? Shouldn't every person decide for himself what and how and where he will save the money he earned?

Mr Nice profile image

Mr Nice 6 years ago from North America

Hi Aya,

Sorry I made a mistake, "But when they are self employed they pay both Social security & Medicare full amount (Employer & employee part 15.3%)

When there is loss from Business then there is net loss that mean no tax. Enjoy rest of your day.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Mr. Nice, do you think having a profit or a loss is a completely objective, non-manipulable thing? People create legitimate losses by incurring business expenses, because they'd rather decide how to spend their money than having the social security administration spend it.

This is one way the tax system guarantees a growth economy and reduced savings.

Mr Nice profile image

Mr Nice 6 years ago from North America

Hi Aya,

Thanks for your feedback on my comments. I commented on the issue of tax on self employment according to current tax system.

Right now people don't have a choice. I understand you are talking about changing the tax laws for Social security & Medicare or may be privatization of Social security.

Here is the link for the article about .


Paragraph from the above link.

Former President George W. Bush called for a transition to a combination of a government-funded program and personal accounts ("individual accounts" or "private accounts") through partial privatization of the system.[8] President Barack Obama "strongly opposes" privatization or raising the retirement age, but supports raising the cap on the payroll tax ($106,800 in 2009) to help fund the program.

Another interesting link:


It doesn't looks like Social security & Medicare privatization will happen under current Government. I myself think people should have more choices & control over their retirement funds.

Bye now

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Mr. Nice, thanks for you continued feedback. I perceive that you picked up on my dissatisfaction with the current system, and you are right about that, but this hub is not about tax reform. Just like your comment, I addressed myself to the system as it is currently constituted.

Under the current laws, taxpayers do in fact have many choices. What I was addressing was the way these choices shape the decisions we make.

You made it seem as if profit or loss were a static thing, and we just report it as it happens. My point was that under the current system, we are well within our rights to choose to make a profit or to take a loss, based on the legitimate deductions that we are allowed to take.

Many people incur legitimate allowable expenses, and they are well within their legal rights to do so, in order to bring their business into the red, and with the sole purpose of avoiding a profit and self-employment taxes. The tax laws, as currently written, allow this.

OpinionDuck profile image

OpinionDuck 6 years ago


You are very optimistic, while I see toil if there is an expectation for effort versus reward.

I do agree with your Royalty comment.

As for the non pecuniary scoring system employed by Hubpages, I think that hubs should be scored solely based on comments and views. The current scoring system doesn't really interpret the quality of the writing in the hub.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Opinion Duck, I'm glad you agree that our earnings ought to be called royalties and count as passive income. It would save us all a lot of grief.

I've long since given up trying to understand the Hubscore. But it really doesn't matter, as it doesn't affect much of anything.

I am a little bemused by the additional rating system that just went into effect today. Four people found this hub "useful", two found it "funny", one found it to be "awsome" and one thought it was "beautiful". Go figure!

Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 6 years ago from Delaware

I have worked as an independent contractor and understood I would need to report my profits after expenses. Once I reached my first pay out, I started keeping a record. I'm about to branch out and will have a record of the costs involved to use as business expenses. Thank you for a very good article about all of this, I appreciate the comments as well and will bookmark this for future reference.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jen's Solitude, thanks! It's encouraging for me to know that you have already been down this road and that you are able to keep the records to track both income and expenses.

Don Simkovich profile image

Don Simkovich 6 years ago from Pasadena, CA

This is an important article. We often forget about taxes especially if it takes a while to build an income. I've never thought of Adsense as passive income - glad you clarified. It's definitely advertising revenue based on published work.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Don Simkovich, thanks! I think we have to distinguish between the way we actually earn the money and the way it is classified for tax purposes. We don't make the tax laws, but we do have to live by them, and it helps to have a realistic handle on how this income is viewed by Google and by the IRS.

Nan 6 years ago

Yhanks for sheding some light on the subject. If they don't buy the ads we don't earn any money. We don't have a choice on the ads that they run. Also no matter how good the article if the ads don't sell, we get no money. Good knowledge about taxes and money.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Nan, thanks for your comment. It's true that if we hope to earn, it doesn't always turn out to be as much as we would like, no matter how well we write or how hard we work. We don't get to choose the ads they run, but if we object to having a particular kind of ad, we can filter it out. We can't decide how much we are paid, but if we are afraid that we may earn more than we want to in a particular year for tax purposes, we do have the choice to turn all the ads off, and then turn them back on when the tax year is over.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

While I am not thrilled with having to pay taxes on my Google earnings this year, at least this means that I am earning some money here.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Dolores Monet, congratulations! Having Google earnings is definitely a good thing! But it would be even better if we didn't have to pay social security taxes on them. ;-> Maybe we should start a petition...

galinaa profile image

galinaa 5 years ago

I also had this question on my mind... Thanks for the hub!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Galinaa. Glad this helped you!

CrazyGata profile image

CrazyGata 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

Thank you very much Aya... I found you through Google search engine.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

CrazyGata, thanks! It's good to know this article shows up in search.

rmcleve profile image

rmcleve 4 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

I wish I had read this before! I think I knew all of this somewhere in the recesses of my mind, but I'm glad to be sure of it all now.

Thanks for sharing!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, RMCleve. Glad this helps!

Teenable profile image

Teenable 2 years ago from India

Thank you very much Aya for nice information.

I Follow you on HubPages.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 2 years ago from The Ozarks Author

You're welcome. Teenable.

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