Friday, June 24, 2011
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What are the tax consequences of being paid to go on a date? One woman interviewed for the story explained that she received $120 in a card handed to her by the member who successfully bid for a few hours of her time, which she says was spent at dinner at a fine restaurant. Is the $120 gross income? How can it not be? It’s not a gift. It was delivered in exchange for a few hours of the woman’s time, company, conversation, and attention. How does that $120 differ from $120 paid to a psychologist, plumber, or painter? What are the tax consequences of the meal received by the woman? Does the fact that she was paid to go to dinner make the value of the dinner she received additional compensation? Assuming that people who are treated to dinner on dates for which they are not being paid almost surely are not reporting the value of the dinner as gross income – though there are arguments that they should be reporting it – does the tax nature of the dinner transaction change because of the $120 compensation? If so, should the tax treatment of other dinner dates depend on what other “consideration” is involved in the overall transaction? One member’s explanation of her goals may come back to haunt her come tax time: “If it's going to be a big, huge waste of time, at least I'm going to get paid for it. A lot of these guys are wealthy gentlemen, and I think my time is as valuable as their time." Getting paid for one’s time is compensation gross income. As for deductions, apparently the “attractive” members don’t pay the web site to unlock emails. No payment, no deduction. The ones paying the web site fees aren’t carrying on a trade or business or for-profit activity, and the payments surely aren’t charitable contributions. No deduction.