Payment for articles in the newspapers


It seems that some of the English newspapers use articles written by freelance writers. How is payment made to these writers? Are the columnists in, say the China Post (Richard Hartzell, the View from the Hill, etc.), on staff or are they freelance writers? How much tax is deducted? Thanks.


I submit my articles by email to the email address that the CHINA POST Prime Time editor gave me. I rarely go into the CHINA POST offices.

The CHINA POST Accounting Department takes a month or more to do the accounting work after an article is published. They then notify the writer. In my impression, they would prefer that writers come in and pick up their payment in cash and sign for it.

However, in my case I negotiated with them to do it another way. They calculate up the amount of payment and remit that to me once a month, to my Postal Remittance account. They then fax me a one-page typed summary of the names of the articles published and the amounts paid, including the total amount paid, as well as a copy of the Postal Remittance receipt. I have to photocopy that fax, sign it and chop it, and then fax (or mail) it back to the Accounting Department.

Since I have been in Taiwan a long time I can get the minimum withholding rate, which averages about 10%.

Payment is so many NT$ per word, and that of course is an issue of negotiation between the writer and the editor or publisher.


Hi Richard:

Some following questions to your posting (which was very informative).

I assume that you have a Joining Family Resident Visa and Alien Resident Certificate based on your marriage to an ROC national (or alternatively, that you qualify for permanent residency under Article 23 of the Immigration Law), and that you are thus able to obtain multiple work permits under Article 48 of the Employment Services Act

  1. Do you in fact have an Article 48 work permit through The China Post to write your column?

  2. If you do not have an Article 48 (or Article 43) work permit through The China Post, what is the legal basis for you, as a foreigner, to perform work for The China Post under such a free-lance agreement?

  3. Hypothetical: I am a foreigner living in Taiwan, with a work permit through a Taiwan company, I am not married to an ROC national, and I do not qualify for permanent residency. Is it legal for me to use the same arrangement as you have with The China Post to do free-lance work for a Taiwan company other than the company through which I have my work permit?

  4. If the answer to question #3 is yes, why doesn’t this violate the legal prohibition on doing work for a company other than the company that issued my work permit?

Look forward to your answers.


Yours are very good questions. I will give you some background information as follows. I believe that you will find all the answers to your questions if you read carefully.

Back when I started writing for the Chinese-language newspapers in 1978, I was still on a student visa. At that time no one ever said that contributing articles to a local newspaper was in violation of my student status. In fact, at that time, the manuscript fees for such articles were even tax-exempt.

As the years went by, I continued to write for the Chinese-language newspapers and magazines, and even had my resident visa sponsored by Crown Magazine for many years. Even at that time, no one ever said that contributing articles to other local publications was in violation of my magazine writer status.

I got married to a local lady in early 1989 and by the early 1990’s I had a Joining Family Resident Visa. At that time, no one ever said that contributing articles to various local publications was in violation of my JFRV status.

In May 1992, the Employment Services Act was passed. By the mid-1990’s, I had a work visa based on teaching at a local English Language School. As it was renewed year by year, no one ever said that contributing articles to various local publications was in violation of my Work Permit.

In the late 1990’s I held an Article 48 Work Permit based on working at a local English Language School. As it was renewed year by year, no one ever said that contributing articles to various local publications was in violation of my Work Permit.

So, this is the situation you have today. Although the analysis you have stated is seemingly correct, in fact neither the visa laws nor the ESA have ever been enforced to deny a person the right to contribute articles to various local publications. In terms of the ESA, I believe that this is also due to the fact that the “writer” is not physically present in the office and being supervised by the employer.

I am currently holding a three-year JFRV. The key point here is that if I wanted to get a visa based on the status of writing for the CHINA POST, that would potentially present problems. There would be the need for a lot of formal paperwork, hiring certificate, etc., and would require an effective redefinition of the entire relationship.

I meet my tax responsibilities by paying tax on all income received for services rendered in the ROC.


Thank you for your responses.

Perhaps each time you went to renew your status (student visa, work visa through the English language school, Article 48 work permit, etc.),
no one ever said that contributing articles to local publications was in violation of that status because, as you have accurately pointed out in other threads, one agency of the R.O.C. government knows not and often cares not about the concerns of another.

When your work permit through the English language school was renewed by the Ministry of the Education, the MOE case officer, not being a reader of The China Post, did not know about your work for local publications. The Government Information Office (where hopefully someone does read the publications that you contributed to since the GIO is the regulator) never thought to check whether you had a work permit to contribute to such publications.


  1. Richard says that “neither the visa laws nor the ESA have ever been enforced to deny a person the right to contribute articles to various local publications,” but I would counter that ROC laws are usually interpreted to permit only what is expressly permitted therein. I’d still like to see a basis permitting free lancing.

  2. Richard goes to renew his work permit (or goes to the police to renew his ARC). His work permit/ARC are through the English language school. Just as the the MOE case officer (or the foreign affairs police officer) is about to put the final chop on the documents, someone who resents Richard’s efforts to make Taiwan more hospitable for foreigners (or maybe a psycho xiao jie that Richard spurned to marry his beloved), who has an axe to grind with Richard, comes running in with a stack of Richard’s writings over the years and says “Case Officer Xiao Jie, why are you issuing a work permit/ARC to Richard based on his employment with the English language school. Richard is clearly a prolific writer here in the ROC. Shoudldn’t his work permit be through the GIO?”

In this situation I am guessing that Richard will have some explaining to do. The example may seem extreme bit illustrates the dangers of free lancing – unless there is a legal basis to do it.

  1. Richard, does your analysis change if instead of contributing articles to local publications, one does free-lance translations?

  2. What if Jane Doe has a work permit through Slappy Happy English School, and she also signs a contract with Scoopy Doopy English Language Services to do one-on-one English teaching at student’s home/office? Ms. Doe never sets foot in the offices of Scoopy Doopy. How is this any different from what you do for The China Post?


Your comments and concerns are all very valid. Your analysis is very good. However, I can only say that you are putting one plus one together and getting two, in a western fashion. In Taiwan, with the Chinese mentality, one plus one may just equal one. (My son explained this to me when he noted "What do you get when you put one ball of sand together with another ball of sand? Answer: one ball of sand. Hence, one plus one equals one.)

First, a clarification, when I was working at the English language school, I was writing a weekly column for the China Times, a local Chinese daily. In my earlier years I had written for the United Daily News and the Min Sheng Pao. Did the officers at the Foreign Affairs Department of the Taipei Police Station see my articles? Well, considering I averaged over 50 articles a year (with a weekly column), I can say with 100% certainty that they definitely saw some of them.

When the USA broke relations with Taiwan, I wrote several articles critical of the Carter Administration, and they were published in these Chinese dailies. I remember that the next time I went to renew my ARC I took those articles along and the counter people at the Police Station all nodded approvingly.

You have stated that “…ROC laws are usually interpreted to permit only what is expressly permitted therein…” I am sorry if this has been your experience. This is classical Chinese social organization, however it is a denial of democracy. In a democracy, all activities which are not specifically prohibited are allowed. I frequently argue this point in court, and I usually win (unless there are extenuating circumstances…)

Regarding your comments in item 2: Again you are thinking like a westerner. I can assure you that such an situation would not happen in Taiwan, either at the Police Department or the tax office.

Regarding your comments in item 3: If you are working “off site,” then I believe that the analysis does not change.

Regarding Jane Doe: If she is working in any company office, and being supervised by managerial personnel there, then she has to have a Work Permit to be legal. If she has a Work Permit to work at Slappy Happy English School, then the Work Permit will clearly state the location as being the address of that school. That is the only place she is supposed to be working.

If she is teaching someone in a company, in my experience, that type of “position” will usually expand, to where she is dealing with other types of issues, talking to overseas clients on the telephone, dealing with email, faxes, letters, etc. and doing other paperwork. Hence, she ends up being supervised by managerial personnel there, and without a Work Permit that is illegal.

If she is doing home teaching, then due to the fact that the Police don’t normally do raids on individual households, so the fact of her working illegally is not likely to be discovered.

The final analysis is that you can indeed do off-site freelancing (which in my interpretation means that you are not sitting in any company offices), but you cannot get a visa based on such activity. You have to get a visa based on something else.


Hartzell, thanks for your comments, but will it stop “The Fear”?

“Fear, The”: Unpleasant emotion caused by bad expectation.

Examples of “The Fear”:

  1. Unhealthy paranoia due to imminent shafting from a Taiwanese beaureacrat.
  2. Catalepsy as a result of any form of (unwelcome) question from ANY Taiwanese bureaucrat.

Ed: With reference to definition 2, the word “unwelcome” is a tautology, as any question in the abovementioned situation would clearly be unwelcomed; it is therefore redundant.

Taiwanese bureaucrat /n: Any administrator who demonstrates four of the following seven characteristics: oppressive, insensitive, inflexible, Taiwanese, oppressive, insensitive, inflexible.
With respect to bureaucracy, four of these words are also redundant.

Catalepsy /n: state of seizure with loss of sensation and consciousness accompanied by sudden internal fluid movement in a downward direction.


Big Babou
Ps: Can this stuff be traced to my computer? Uh-oh, I feel “The Fear” coming on…