• Advocacy, Finance

Freelance Politics: The Unincorporated Business Tax Campaign Heats Up

Freelancers might not know that something is happening right now in Albany to help 1099-ers make ends meet. Every year freelancers in New York pay millions to the Unincorporated Business Tax (UBT), paying over $162 million last year alone. If you’ve ever paid it, you know that with the UBT, you are taxed twice—first on your personal income and then on your business income. But the legislature in Albany is now considering a bill to eliminate the UBT for freelancers earning up to $100,000 per year and to provide a tax credit for those earning up to $150,000. Back when this tax was first enacted, there were far fewer freelancers. Freelancers were caught up in a tax that had nothing to do with them; the real targets of this tax were corporations that were trying to avoid paying corporate taxes. But that’s where politics came in to play. It was the 1970s, and New York City was broke. Government was looking for as much revenue as possible. Even though freelancers weren’t supposed to be the targets of the UBT, they were not an organized group that had any muscle to protest. Then New York City lost the commuter tax, and many elected officials viewed the UBT as a way to make up for lost revenue. There was no active constituency to fight it…until now. Now we are 70,000 union members strong in New York and 115,000 nationally. In the last two years we have pushed back a tax that for 40 years should never have included us, and an active membership made this change happen. We have held two city council hearings where elected officials like David Yassky listened to members describe how this tax punishes freelancers. We had so many members attend that we couldn’t fit them into the hearing room. Finally, on Wednesday, June 3rd, members are going to Albany to meet with state legislators to lobby to eliminate the UBT and to explain what a freelancer is—surprisingly, many have no idea. UBT may be on the front of our agenda, but it is just part of our larger goal to make freelancing fair. I hope you participate in the UBT campaign and get more involved in our political work. Sign up for Get Involved list to hear more. Now’s the time to join in—just think of it as networking for fairness. And if you want to end the UBT and support other freelance-friendly policies, you should contribute to our Political Action Committee. I look forward to seeing you at the next event, and I hope to see you in Albany.

Sara Horowitz As the founder of Freelancers Union, Sara has been a voice for freelancers for over two decades.