Influencer Marketing: Beauty Queens have to pay taxes

What is known in the analog world as word-of-mouth propaganda is online the influencer. Especially due to their strong presence in social media (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) and the high credibility among their followers, influencers are a promising model to counteract ad blockers and the general advertising overload.

What is known in the analog world as word-of-mouth propaganda is online the influencer. Especially due to their strong presence in social media (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) and the high credibility among their followers, influencers are a promising model to counteract ad blockers and the general advertising overload.

Influencer marketing is a discipline of online marketing in which companies specifically involve opinion leaders - people with high online reputation, influence and reach - in their brand communication. Influencers are actors in the Social Web who have established a relevant number of social relationships with and influence on their followers through content production and distribution and interaction with their followers. Companies use their reputation and reach to achieve communication and brand goals. Successful influencers have social authority and trustworthiness. They show passion, behave consistently, are committed and professionally competent. They are recognized as experts and are considered trustworthy role models in their community, whose opinions and recommendations are listened to. This enables them to positively influence the perception of brands and the sale of products.

The beautiful light must be taxed

The fact that influencers present themselves with expensive products and well-known brands not only for the care of their online profile and out of charity, becomes clear since some influencers can live on it. But what about invitations to expensive hotels? Accepting expensive products? Is that taxable and AHV-liable income?

If influencers receive free products from companies, be it the latest smartphone, a hip mountain bike or a free trip to a trendy holiday destination, this has tax implications. In principle, all cash and non-cash benefits received by the taxpayer are considered income and are therefore taxable. Such a benefit in kind is only tax-free if this is expressly anchored in the law (Art. 16.03 DBG / Art. 24 DBG). Free products and free services, on the other hand, do not constitute a gift (Art. 24.a DBG), as the gift is a contract within the meaning of Art. 239 OR, by which the giver undertakes to provide the donee(s) with a service from his or her own assets immediately or in the future without any corresponding consideration. In principle, these free products and services are to be valued at market or fair market value and therefore represent taxable income.

Tax liability almost always arises

Are influencers compensated by companies with a negotiated amount per image or for a blog, this constitutes taxable income on the part of the Swiss resident influencer, regardless of whether he receives this remuneration from a Swiss or foreign company. It also makes no difference whether the compensation is paid in Swiss francs, in a foreign currency or even in a crypto-currency (e.g. Bitcoin). It is to be assumed that most influencers will pay themselves as self-employed persons. However, this self-assessment is checked in Switzerland by the AHV. In this case, the AHV must be provided with proof of self-reliance. Experience shows that recognition of self-employment by the AHV compensation fund is often not easy. The new, modern and unconventional way in which influencers work certainly does not make AHV recognition as a self-employed person any easier. If, as an entrepreneur, you engage an influencer and compensate this person in cash or in kind, make sure you obtain appropriate AHV proof of your contractor's self-employment. Otherwise you run the risk that this compensation will be classified as a wage at the next AHV check - and the AHV will charge you the employer's and employee's contributions.

From the point of view of AHV, an influencer is independent if he or she:

  • appears to the outside world with a company name,
  • bears its own economic risk,
  • is free to choose its business organisation, and
  • works for several clients

Do you have an innovative business idea that you would like to implement? The experts at STARTUPS.CH are at your disposal and will accompany you in your professional independence.