Cost Of Blogging In Philadelphia: A $300 License

oldcomputerPhiladelphia’s City Paper reports that city residents must now pay $300 for a business license in order to engage in blogging, if their blog earns even the tiniest amount of revenue (five dollars a year, in one example). With local governments across the country awash in budgetary troubles, will this concept spread to other municipalities? And what will be done to those who “blog illegally”?

Even though small-time bloggers aren’t exactly raking in the dough, the city requires privilege licenses for any business engaged in any “activity for profit,” says tax attorney Michael Mandale of Center City law firm Mandale Kaufmann. This applies “whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year,” he adds.

So even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there’s the potential for it to be lucrative — and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising — the city thinks you should cut it a check.

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.

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  • Your Mom

    Karma's a bitch, y'all: when you expect the gub'mint to tax those rich bastards, you have ZERO right to complain when said gub'mint extends its power (as so often happens) and reaches into your pocket.

    Suckers.

    • Andrew

      It's funny how you use the term “gub'mint.” I've only heard people pronounce it that way when making fun of southern conservatives. It's almost like you're trying to parody yourself.

      • A Bad Joke

        Maybe he is.

    • Gemmarama

      you obviously have no concept of what “karma” actually means. you are basically implying that people have done something wrong to deserve this.

      we would like to see those “rich bastards” taxed more because they can afford it. your average blogger is not so well off and has a blog for personal rather than financial reasons. it does not simply follow that they should be taxed as “rich bastards” are, but then that's the kind of narrow thinking we know and love you for mommy.

      forget to take our valium this morning, did we?

    • VR

      Do you even stop to think before you pontificate from your ass?

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Oddly…I can'y unilaterally disapprove of this in concept…because a business…even a small one…is a business. There is no 'only a little pregnant'. If you have income from it…its business…but $300 is extortionate. It should be pared down for the low end of the spectrum…because the alternative is shutting people out of the market. I get the frantic need for cash from cities and states…but chasing off small businesses so that you can afford to offer those multi year tax-free perks for large corporations who move in is like slashing your wrists to deal with your blood cancer.

    • Haystack

      Earning money isn't the same as having a business. Any income tax form has a line for earnings from hobbies, personal services, etc. If you hold a garage sale, you're supposed to report your income this way. There's no expectation that you file as a business owner because you sold baby clothes and VHS tapes from your front yard.

      A business licence applies when you are engaging in activities that the go'vt needs to regulate, like hiring employees, making use of a sales tax exemption, generating business traffic in a given neighborhood, etc. What makes this bogus is that the city has no stake in regulating blogs–it would be like the DMV trying to charge you a registration fee for your copy of Grand Theft Auto.

      • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

        Good points. I'd probably have to amend my thoughts to suggest only licensing people who sell ad space…once you're selling adspace on your site…you could probably call it regular income and characterize it as a business…but Moms monthly recipe blog on a freeblog site that doesn't directly profit her definitely shouldn't count.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Good points. I’d probably have to amend my thoughts to suggest only licensing people who sell ad space…once you’re selling adspace on your site…you could probably call it regular income and characterize it as a business…but Moms monthly recipe blog on a freeblog site that doesn’t directly profit her definitely shouldn’t count.

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