Philadelphia Begins Charging Blogs $300 Per Year

(Updated by Warner Todd Huston)
Are you a blogger in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania? Do you have Google Adsense or some other sort of low-return ads on your blog? If so expect a letter soon from your friendly city treasurer demanding that you pay a $300 tax on your “money making business.”

For most people that maintain an active blog it is just a hobby. Some people blog daily but most only do so a few times a month. Many bloggers also participate in Google’s advertising program called Adsense but few make much more than $20 or $30 a year from the effort.

But according to the City of Philadelphia, you have a lucrative business one that you need to register with the city and either pay $50 a year tax or a “lifetime” fee of $300 to be allowed to operate.

Naturally the Philly bloggers that have gotten this letter are flabbergasted. None of them were even aware they have a taxable business with their blog. Ah, but the city disagrees.

Here’s one way to shut down dissent…
Cash-strapped Philadelphia recently began charging blogs $300 per year for their business license.

City Paper
reported:

For the past three years, Marilyn Bess has operated MS Philly Organic, a small, low-traffic blog that features occasional posts about green living, out of her Manayunk home. Between her blog and infrequent contributions to ehow.com, over the last few years she says she’s made about $50. To Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it’s a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut.

In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license.

“The real kick in the pants is that I don’t even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous,” Bess says.

It would be one thing if Bess’ website were, well, an actual business, or if the amount of money the city wanted didn’t outpace her earnings six-fold. Sure, the city has its rules; and yes, cash-strapped cities can’t very well ignore potential sources of income. But at the same time, there must be some room for discretion and common sense.

When Bess pressed her case to officials with the city’s now-closed tax amnesty program, she says, “I was told to hire an accountant.”

She’s not alone. After dutifully reporting even the smallest profits on their tax filings this year, a number — though no one knows exactly what that number is — of Philadelphia bloggers were dispatched letters informing them that they owe $300 for a privilege license, plus taxes on any profits they made.

Even if, as with Sean Barry, that profit is $11 over two years.

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