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Old 01-26-2007, 05:43 PM
Skott Skott is offline
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Do authors need a business license? Do crossword writers?

Does an author need a business license in order profit from their work? Would it be different if their work were only online, and supported by advertising and/or subscriptions? How about donations (a la OddTodd)? How about someone who creates crossword puzzles? Would it likewise make a difference if they were making their puzzle available online vs. a newspaper?
Old 01-26-2007, 05:53 PM
friedo friedo is online now
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Location: Brooklyn
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This varies considerably state by state, but you generally only need a business license if you must charge sales tax, or are in a profession which requires a license (real-estate agent, building contractor, etc.)

People who write for newspapers or websites are either employees or independent contractors. An independent contractor doesn't need a business license but needs to keep track of his own income for tax purposes.

If you're selling advertising on your own website, you don't need a business license, but you will have to report the income on your taxes.
Old 01-26-2007, 05:58 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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In the U.S. being a writer is protected by the first amendment. States cannot put impediments into its way. No licenses of any kind are needed. I know this is true for New York and I'm certain that this is true for all the other states.

Nor can writers be barred from using their places of residence as their work sites, no matter what zoning laws or other restrictions would normally apply to businesses.

Of course you have to report income to the IRS and comply with all the regulations involved, but that's a different matter.

Other countries may have different rules in place; IIRC the USSR at one time put restrictions on writers and I imagine that other totalitarian states did and do. Most western-style democracies will not, however.
Old 01-26-2007, 06:02 PM
Antinor01 Antinor01 is offline
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Location: Van Nuys, CA
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One way it could make a difference (at least in California) is if they wanted to purchase health insurance as a business. Then we would require a business license, ficticious name statement, DBA or corporation to be in place.
Old 01-26-2007, 06:34 PM
Skott Skott is offline
Join Date: Mar 1999
Posts: 802
Myself, I'm in Sonoma County, California, if that's helpful. I've been pondering whether I would need a business license in order to sell an online magazine subscription with unique puzzles in it, augmented with puzzles on a website and "live" events.

When wondering whether I needed a license for such an endevor or whether it would be more beneficial to have one than not, I wondered what category my hypothetical activities would fall under (since you need a category number for the license application). I couldn't figure out what the category would be from the ones our county lists, but I think it's an old system and that there's a newer one in place. The best I could think of was "author", and then the whole line of questions as to whether any author of any type needed a license came to mind, along with the vision of Stephen King down at his county courthouse filling out the paperwork if they do.
Old 01-26-2007, 09:19 PM
twickster twickster is offline
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Dunno about your website -- but freelance puzzle constructors are treated the same way that freelance authors are.

twicks, who has dealt with both categories of work from both sides of the editorial desk
Old 01-26-2007, 09:27 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Usually, business licenses only are enforced with people who have customers/clients coming to their place of business. Technically, a freelancer could be required, but most places don't usually care.

If you're publishing a magazine from your home it's highly unlikely you'd need to be licensed (for one thing, how could the locality ever know? It's not like you're going to put up a sign on your front lawn). There have been occasional attempts at requiring for freelancers, but I haven't heard of one since the mid-80s and it's unlikely the income earned would be worth the cost of enforcing it.

Of course, any income you earn is reported to the IRS, but this doesn't go to local authorities.
"If a person saying he was something was all there was to it, this country'd be full of rich men and good-looking women. Too bad it isn't that easy.... In short, when someone else says you're a writer, that's when you're a writer... not before."
Purveyor of fine science fiction since 1982.


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