Affiliate Commissions - Who Pays The Taxes?

by 14 comments
I have just set up my first affiliate program, and I want to affiliates may a large commission in order to really motivate them to sell - perhaps 75% or more.

My question is, if an affiliate sells a $100 item, and I decided to pay them $75 for that sale (75%), am I going to have to pay taxes on the whole $100 amount at the end of the year? OR do people use a W-9 IRS form (from my understanding this form allows the income to "flow through" the other person or company so they pay taxes on whatever I pay them?)

I don't mind paying the taxes if it helps build my list and sell products, I'm just curious how this works.
#internet marketing #affiliate #commissions #pays #taxes
  • Profile picture of the author SeanSupplee
    You pay your income as taxes and commissions paid out are written that way on your tax forms. Then they pay taxes on the commissions they earned form you.
    • Profile picture of the author boaterscott
      Sean -

      First all of - thanks for helping out.

      So just to clarify (I'm not the best with taxes and I'll be talking to my accountant soon anyway), you are saying that I will note the commissions I pay out on my taxes (and of course the I'll disclose my income too). So basically, if we use my $100 example in the end I would only pay on the income that I keep, in this case it's $25 - right?

      Are there any forms that an affiliate needs to fill out, or is it just up to them to disclose whatever they make to the IRS?
  • Profile picture of the author entrepenerd
    If you're running your own affiliate program (not through Clickbank or something similar), then you'll want to have your affiliates fill out a W-9 to get their SSN. Then if an affiliate earns more than $600 in commissions from you, you will need to send them a 1099 that declares the money that you paid to them. That 1099 will also need to be filed to the IRS as part of your taxes.

    To be honest, this is why many vendors go with 3rd party affiliate managers like Clickbank. CB takes care of paying the affiliate and handling the tax forms. The only money you actually collect is your portion and that's all you're responsible for paying taxes on.

    Hope that helps.

    Make sure you talk with your accountant on this, and make sure they are a "tax" accountant. You need someone that specializes is taxes, not just bookkeeping.
  • Profile picture of the author SageSound
    If you use an instant commission payment script like RAP or 7DS, then you don't have to worry about it since you're not collecting the monies and then disbursing them.

    If you use someone like Clickbank, THEY pay the affiliates out of your earnings, so you don't have to deal with it either.

    But if you run your own affiliate program and collect 100% of the sales revenues up front, and then pay affiliates yourself later, those expenses are considered "commissions" and are deductible from the gross income.

    And just remember ... 75% of $5 is a lot less than 75% of $1000. It's not the percentage, it's the total dollars you're dealing with.

    Lots of choices.
  • Profile picture of the author cherylwright
    I'm in Australia and pay affiliates directly. I don't declare anything to any governments except my own income.

    As far as I'm aware, affiliates are responsible for declaring their income. Part of the affiliate agreement I use tells potential affiliates this is the case.

    This possibly goes against US laws, but I'm not in the US.

    • Profile picture of the author ExRat
      Hi Cheryl,

      I'm in Australia and pay affiliates directly. I don't declare anything to any governments except my own income.
      I'm not an accountant or in Oz (wish I was in Oz though!) but by the letter of the tax law over here, I *think* you are supposed to declare the affiliate payments as income, and then deduct them as an expense - because of course, by not doing so you are creating a lower turnover than you actually have.

      So if you received $100 for a product sold by an affiliate, you would declare it within your turnover. Then if you paid out $75 to your affiliate, you would then deduct this from your final profit as an expense - IE you would make $25 profit (before other non affiliate related expenses) but your turnover would still be $100.

      But what you *actually* do is up to you and between you and your accountant. I'm just making the point that if someone wanted to understand what they would have to do to be squeaky clean, then I *think* that this is how it works in the UK - unless of course, the commission is paid directly to the affiliate at the point of sale as if it were *their* sale (as with R.A.P., where the total sale is not split, but rotated, which makes the affiliate become like the vendor on alternating sales) OR in clickbank's case where they are the vendor, and they pay the product creator and the affiliate the payments after the sale - in which case, their turnover is higher.
  • Profile picture of the author plester

    you may want to consider operating under an LLC

    you can get more info about that as well as other legal related info at very affordable rates at

    Robert Shapiro started legalzoom a few years ago,and if you don't know who he is he's a very famous attorney to the stars.

    he represented o.j simpson as well as michael jackson just to name a few.

    hope that helps,

    • Profile picture of the author boaterscott
      Great answers - as always many many thanks. Didn't OJ go to jail anyway? Oh, different crime, I forgot

      I am going to start an LLC at the first of the year to start off fresh.

      The reason why I posted is that I thought it would be difficult to track down affiliates and have them fill out a tax form. I was thinking this would scare some away.

      Now if I could just figure out Clickbank...

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