Authors who Donate Book Proceeds to Charity

It seems like second nature to many of us. We are all on this Earth together. We have achieved our current level of skill because of the help of countless other teachers, authors, YouTubers, friends, family, and strangers who gave us that incentive to keep plowing ahead. We therefore want to donate a portion (or all) of our own proceeds to help a good cause.

Makes sense, right?

Depending on where you live, your charitable goals may run into a HUGE brick wall.

Take note that this is critical to understand. If you don’t do this properly, not only can Amazon shut down your sales account, so could iTunes, Nook, and other organizations. Also, violating your state law on charity could be prosecuted as a serious crime.

Here’s the issue.

Some states, like Massachusetts, have laws in place to protect innocent people from unscrupulous con men. You’ve probably seen the scams. Criminals will create an organization called “Massachusetts Police Charity Fund” and start calling every number in the book asking for donations. Those who are called think the organization is a part of the police department, but the con men are just out for themselves. They keep all the money and use it to go on wild vacations.

That’s why Massachusetts (and other states) put in place laws to regulate charity donations of ALL sizes. There is no minimum amount. I spoke directly with the Massachusetts Attorney General office, to a paralegal in the Division of Public Charities. I asked a variety of questions to see if an author could get by with saying only a portion of proceeds went to charity, or wording it in other ways. The answer is NO NO NO. If you are claiming ANY portion of the funds go to a charity, you absolutely must register.

In Massachusetts, in 2019, that means you pay an ANNUAL (every year) $200 fee to get started on a given project. PLUS you have to get yourself a $25,000 bond. Here’s the details. You are considered a “Commercial Co-venturer”.

Here’s the text, down to the asterisks.

Commercial Co-venturer

An individual or business, which for profit or other commercial consideration, advertises that an event or sale to the public of a good or service will benefit, to any extent, a charitable purpose is considered a commercial co-venturer. A commercial co-venturer must file the following:

  1. Registration Statement: Form 10 (RTF);
  2. $25,000 bond: Form 9 (RTF);
  3. Filing fee of $200, made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts;
  4. A copy of each fundraising contract along with Form 10B (RTF) to be filed with registration or within 10 days of signing and prior to the commencement of any co-venturing activity); and
  5. Form 11B Commercial Co-Venturer’s Annual Financial Report: This form is to be filed for each Form 10B filed, and covers the financial activity for a single calendar year. It is due by February 28 of the year following the reporting year.

Commercial co-venturers conducting multiple campaigns need only file one Form 9, Form 10, and filing fee for the calendar year. Separate Forms 10B, contracts, and Forms 11B must be filed for each campaign conducted.

Commercial co-venturers should ensure that the charities for whom they are conducting campaigns are registered and in possession of a valid Certificate for Solicitation prior to commencing co-venturing activities. If the charity in question is not required to register with the AGO, then no Form 10B/contract/Form 11B is required for this campaign.

* * *

Again, I spoke with the Massachusetts Attorney General office. They made very clear that there IS NO MINIMUM AMOUNT for which this does not apply. If you are doing an activity to solicit funds for a charity, you MUST pay the filing fee of $200 and get the $25,000 bond. It says on there that this is for ANY extent of donation, no matter how small.

Amazon is taking this very seriously. They are actively writing letters to authors who make charity claims in their books and asking for proof that the author is properly registered. If you are doing this with a book and have not been caught yet, it’s only a matter of time. If you are not in Massachusetts it could be that your location has no regulations at all about charity donations, but in our modern day and age that is highly unlikely. With the number of scammers growing by the day, the regulations are only getting more strict.

Protect your assets – your ability to market your books on all platforms. That means either you register properly for any charity work you do, or you remove all reference to the charity from any books, content, and marketing.

Ask with any questions. I’m not a lawyer, but I’ll do the best I can.

Sales Tax for Authors and Artists

If you’re an author or artist, it’s likely that one of your goals is to sell some of your creations. You might enter art shows with your paintings or go to book fairs with a box of your books. In either case it’d probably be a little sad if you came home with no sales at all.

So that means you should celebrate when you are eligible for paying a sales tax! It’s a tangible sign of your success!

I’m in Massachusetts, so this description is about Massachusetts sales tax. If you live in a location which has a sales tax, you’ll want to look up the details for your location.

Here in Massachusetts, sales tax for pretty much all of us artists and authors can be done online. It’s fairly quick and easy to do. If your sales tax payment is $100 or less you can do it once a year. If your sales tax payment is $101 to $1200 you pay quarterly. Here’s the details.

The sales tax rate in Massachusetts is 6.25%. So you’d have to manually sell at least $1600 in goods in order to need to pay quarterly. If you sold $1600 in goods, you’d owe $100 in sales tax. Under that and it’s fine to file once a year.

Note that there IS NO MINIMUM AMOUNT of sales tax below which the government doesn’t want their money. The Massachusetts government wants ALL their money even if it’s just pennies. It’s best to file. With all the electronic systems in place nowadays, they can figure these things out. Keep track during the year of what you sell. Take that final number and multiply by .0625 – and then send in the tax. It’s better to be safe.

Once you file the first year, the Mass government will send you a reminder each subsequent year if you forget to file, in the form of a bill for $50 :). It’s not that you actually owe $50. It’s just that they are prodding you to actually file. Figure out what you do owe them and submit the money. If you didn’t owe any sales tax at all that year, then submit a zero-money entry. They want to know that you didn’t sell anything.

Note that legally any time you’re at an art fair or book fair or something and you are making sales you are supposed to display your sales tax ID in a visible place so customers know you’re legally allowed to sell. You can just make a photocopy of your ID form and stick it on a corner of the table or something.

If you have your sales go through Amazon or a bookstore or something like that, they will generally handle the sales tax for you. So you don’t need to count that income. But if you’re in the BVAA gallery in Uxbridge, for example, we don’t do any sales tax processing. So you’d need to pay sales tax on income earned there. If you go to a book fair and take in money, you need to pay sales tax on that.

Note this is COMPLETELY SEPARATE from income tax. So whatever you do or do not do with your income tax, you still need to pay sales tax to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. Those are separate activities.

Also note, you have to pay that sales tax HOWEVER YOU WERE PAID. Whether you were paid in cash, via credit card, via check, via PayPal, the Mass DOR does not care. They count all of those as sales and you personally are required to therefore pay sales tax on those transactions.

It appears that even renting artwork is a money-exchange transaction for goods and needs to have sales tax accounted for. So if you are renting out your artwork, make sure that either your organization or you are paying the sales tax on that amount.

Ask with any questions – and congratulations on earning an income on your creative projects!

Naomi Jackson Oxendine

As many of you know, I am writing a series of books based on Naomi Jackson Oxendine, born 1784 who then had four children in Jackson County TN. This family was all involved in the chancery records that most of the family genealogists have delved through.

Here’s my challenge.

We know that Naomi had two children, Jonathan and Polly, with “The Devil Bill Williams”. He had a ruthless reputation. I didn’t mind making him the “bad guy” in my books. However, I’m at the point where Naomi meets David Oxendine, and we know she then has two children with David. I want to therefore do something to Bill. However, I can’t find any research ANYWHERE which indicates what happened to bill after Polly was born. So I’m nervous about stuffing Bill in jail, for example, if anybody knows what actually happened to him.

Naomi Jackson Oxendine Genealogy

Does anybody know?

If we agree that nobody knows, I think I’m putting Bill in jail. Hopefully none of us descendants will mind that. Maybe it’s more likely in that time-frame that he would have been hung but I’m less keen on killing off a real life person when we’re not sure what happened to him.

I haven’t updated my Oxendine pages in a while, so I’m going to go through and refresh them all to make sure they have everything I know about the family members in the books. I’m writing in the 1800-1810 timeframe. If you have anything to add to my pages, let me know.

Here’s book 1 – it’s free – if you haven’t seen it yet –

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. I’m happy to take any suggestions.

Spring and All

My latest release in the public domain book push! This is “Spring and All” by William Carlos Williams. There’s some quite cool poetry in here along with fun essay/prose/poetry on a variety of topics like Shakespeare and what really counts as poetry and so on. Let me know if you’d like to see a copy!