Death Before Taxes: A Creator’s Choose Your Own Adventure


Remember during the pandemic, approximately one hundred and fifty election cycles ago, when you read some Wired article about Twitch streamers literally making money in their sleep and thought, “I, too, am a frequent taker of naps. Why shouldn’t I make a few bucks snoozing in front of strangers?” 

So you registered for Twitch and found out that an account doesn’t de facto give you the ability to directly livestream onto the site. Thwarted but determined and with nothing else to do, you sat down for a good two and a half weeks watching YouTube tutorials hosted by either bald men in their 50s with vaguely Eastern European accents, hyper 18-year-olds…and literally no one else. Despite speaking in that cartoonishly slow, overly-praising way that telegraphs condescension, you still end up overwhelmed by all the jargon you need to know just to get a live video on the internet. Streamyard vs Streamlabs, Stripe vs Square, Zoom vs Zoomtrack.

It was a way to spend the time, anyhow, while waiting to hear back about whether or not you were still employed. Learning how to import scenes into OBS and weighing the pros and cons of starting an OnlyFans gave your cabin-fevered brain something to chew on besides loaves of underproofed sourdough piling up in the kitchen.

But then days stretched into weeks, and weeks into years, seasons came and went. “tesnuS, esirnuS,”  as they would say in TENET, a movie that makes a lot more sense considering it was still in theaters last month. Time froze, or at least stopped being relevant for differentiating the various blocks of your life. You could measure a year as 525,600 minutes. Or in election cycles, Tiger Kings, Homelanders, and Bojack Horsemen.  (Raise your hand if you followed that last bit because you get a high-five for sharing in the collective trauma and this elder millennial’s love of period showtunes.) 


 After a waiting period where you thought about Googling what “furloughed” meant, you swallowed your pride and applied for federal benefits. You got those stimulus checks. And finally, you got your first paid subscriber. A short while later — for consistency’s sake, let’s call it the same period to move from “Wandavision” to “Falcon and the Winter Soldier”–you signed up for the affiliate program. Next thing you know, some newbie throws bits in the chat, and the part of your brain stimulated by arcade games releases a huge flood of dopamine when you hear the sound effect that could only mean a hype train of personalized emotes is about to fly across the screen. You could get paid for doing this?

And for a while, it was enough. With the unemployment and stimulus, plus half of every dollar earned on Twitch, you could eke out an existence. But you want to grow your audience, so you set up a Patreon for extra content. Maybe you get really into streams where you just rip old Pokemon packs on-camera, or start selling clothes on Depop. You start making some real money when a brand approaches you to promote their energy drink that your pretty sure is just Diet Coke with Adderall crushed in it. People buy you things from your Amazon Wishlist. You promise yourself that when you make it to the partner program, you’ll find one for yourself and the two of you will purchase yourselves a hermetically-sealed home upstate. Middle-class, but living that American Dream.

By the time tax season rolls around in 2021, you are all too aware of how little time the IRS has for you.  After being ghosted on the umpteenth phone call, you’re pretty sure no one actually works there anymore, or if they did, they certainly couldn’t afford to assign a caseworker to untangle the byzantine labyrinth of creator taxes for your reported income of $4,090.89, most of it made hosting Amazon Prime Watch Parties through 8 seasons and a movie’s worth of “Psych!”

eBay told you to look out for a 1099 in the mail, then reversed course and told you to just ignore that piece of paper, if it ever arrived. (It did not.) (It will this year, though.)

But as “Loki” season 1 became “Loki” season 2, you got a little too comfortable. Doing your taxes as a content creator felt like the inverse of that dream where you show up for finals in your underwear only to remember that you haven’t been to class all semester (and even if you had, it’s doubtful that you’d be able to answer multiple-choice questions about The Voynich Manuscript). A literal dream come true: taxless revenue.

The government was still desperately paddling to stay afloat in a sinking economy. If the Internal Revenue Service couldn’t get it together to handle its own rules- mixed-income earnings, taxes on the stimulus but only in certain states, occult rituals that would give you green credits and rebates for buying a new, deducting the cost of your whole apartment as a workspace–well, they could come and get it. According to The New York Times, TurboTax saw a 200% increase in professional creators using their filing software between 2018 and 2020

But we’re heading into “Loki” season 3 territory, and with it comes the figurative and literal bill due. Content creators have to pay taxes, too, even if the U.S. Census Bureau fails to recognize what they do as work. Many will be filing for the first time this year or will be forced to next year if the government makes good on an earlier, scuttled threat to make $600 revenue the threshhold for taxing. And traditional accountants may not know best how to serve you because, again, officially, you don’t have a job. 

 And you have so, so many questions, and #TaxTok can only take you so far. You still need to know about the specifics of your business: can you write off those Pokemon cards if you opened them on-screen for money? Do you take 50 or 100% off a meal meant for muckbanging? What’s an LLC, and how did you manage to get scammed on the first three results from Google? 
Luckily, we have your answers. Tomorrow (well, today) at 3 pm PT, we’ll be hosting Passionfruit’s first live Discord event, where we’ll be talking to acclaimed comedian and co-host of the Lady to Lady Podcast, Brandie Posey. Posey grew up watching her dad, a CPA, keep detailed records of clients’ expenses and income; as an adult, she became something of an industry secret, helping fellow comics balance their books.  When the pandemic hit, Posey took her side hustle onto the main stage, and she’ll be in our Discord hanging out and answering questions like the ones we (well, you, hypothetically) ask above.

You can find the link to the event on any of our socials (I’d put it here but it would expire before the talk starts). We’re hoping to build out Passionfruit’s expertise in helping creators navigate the ebbs and flows of the content tides. Hang-five, bruh!


The Promise and Dangers of Influencer Journalism

Laura Loomer and Michael Yon

Did you know that 99% of Americans will be able to see some kind of eclipse on April 8th? Whether you’re lucky enough to be in the path of totality or watching a partial eclipse from the coasts, there are a bunch of great tools for viewing and capturing an eclipse without damaging your eyes or equipment (never look directly at an eclipse without certified solar eye covering, and don’t point your camera at it either). These glasses will do the trick for cheap and are sure to sell out, but if you want to get fancy, there are binoculars, telescopes, cellphone covers, DSLR lens covers…it’s going to be fun, and this stuff is going to sell out in the next week or so. Don’t get stuck watching the eclipse through a cereal box.



Modder Claims ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’ Stole Their Designs

‘It’s essentially stealing at this point.’

By Steven Asarch, Passionfruit Contributor

star wars battle front classic collection logo next to an image of darth vader


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IGN Creators Guild Blindsided by Layoffs

‘The whole internet is watching.’

By Charlotte Colombo, Passionfruit Contributor


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