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I’m writing about a feature that allows Russian freelancers who are registered as self-employed citizens to report their income made through our platform online to the tax authority.

Should I use the word “declare” or “report” in that regard? It seems like the former is more commonly used in Great Britain while the latter in the US. Is this correct?

Can you clarify this for me, please? Thanks.

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    As a native BrE speaker, I can confirm that declare (your own income) would be more appropriate here. Report (in relation to someones income) would usually be to inform the authorities of someone else who might be fiddling the system.
    – Smock
    Feb 11, 2020 at 13:22
  • British Customs Officers, in the days when every incoming traveller was interviewed, used to ask "Have you anything to declare?", and would never have used the verb "report". But surely US Customs Officers must have asked the same question when Oscar Wilde travelled to America and reportedly said that he had nothing to declare except his genius - unless, of course, O Wilde was not letting the facts get in the way of a good aphorism.
    – JeremyC
    Feb 11, 2020 at 22:31

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Knowing American English, no one declares income there. People report it (give information rather than clarify what's already partially-known). Both are correct, I believe, but reporting an income is much, much more common in the U.S.

A declaration from the perspective of how American English is used sounds voluntary rather than factual (I'm dictating reality), and it is more of a clarification as I mentioned (I think this is one of the differences between the two words).

I can declare that I made 50k that year, but it may not be true. I hold all the power over the figures. By reporting my income, I'm telling you as it is in actuality (or at least the "actuality" that I want to believe it to be).

I know in Russia, for example, you declare your residence (because you've got the power to tell a fact rather than to tell a past event that you may not actually have any power over). That's really the same as reporting it (the address, of course), so that the local authorities know where you live.

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  • Perfectly clear and very helpful explanation, thank you so much!
    – maximrrrr
    Feb 11, 2020 at 13:20
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    Your first sentence was news to me. But comparing NGrams for American and British English, I see the usage split is quite pronounced. Feb 11, 2020 at 13:21
  • Does that mean the Declaration of Independence should be the Report of Independence? (partially kidding)
    – Smock
    Feb 11, 2020 at 13:26
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    @LucidityofPower to me the (subtle) difference seems to be making something known (declare) and relay information from another source (report). Perhaps the difference usage for BrE and AmE is due to the way the system/process works? In the UK, the authorities wouldn't know about self-employed income unless it was made known to them, but perhaps in the US it's more a sense of relaying the information (from accountant to tax office) ?? I could understand the difference if that was the case.
    – Smock
    Feb 11, 2020 at 14:04
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    @Smock Yes, you're right, I would say. It's a perspective difference. The idea that you declare something sounds as though you have more power over the situation than if you just report what already happened (I can report your income, but I cannot declare your income--that would mean I have the power to decide your income, which I do not have in reality). From the American English perspective, you're withholding information on income when you choose to voluntarily report it compared to declaring it (forcing a unilateral fact). There's less autonomy in reporting than there is in declaring. Feb 11, 2020 at 14:09

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