Philadelphia Requires a "Business Privilege License" For Bloggers

Full story at NBCPhiladelphia.Com

So what do you all think of this?

It brings up some interesting questions like:

How do you enforce it?
How is it defined? Working on your blog? Or when the ad revenue is made?
Does Google or whoever report to the city when it cuts someone a check to a Philly address?

Hmmmm?

As an aside, I like the guy in the TV interview, he looks like a slob. Jeez dude, when you’re going on TV at least make SOME attempt to presentable. :slight_smile:

The city of Philadelphia is going to waste a lot of its attorneys’ time, methinks.

As someone who knows very little about law-type stuff…Would this be a freedom of speech issue? Is the government blocking your freedom of speech if they charge you for it?

ETA, I should mention that I don’t have a problem with any income or profit being taxed, that’s a different issue.

I’m not sure how this could be legal, but it raises a few interesting questions:

– Does Twitter count?
– What’s the difference betwen a blogger (who has to pay) and a freelance journalist (who doesn’t)?
– How can you enforce this? Few blogs include the author’s home address in the “About Me” page.
– Do Amazon reviews count?
– Lots of sites allow their users to have blogs now. Does it have to be a full-on blogging site or does it count if you make one at 1UP.com (a news site) too?

But the biggest question of all is what is this tax taxing? The ACLU is going to have a field day with this.

Yes, at least for those bloggers who earn no money from their work. It’s slightly different in cases where bloggers actually earn money.

It’s not a new thing, and it’s not “for bloggers.” It’s the normal business tax.

The only thing that has changed recently is that bloggers who have reported income from ads have been notified by the city that the tax applies. Oh, and I guess also a bunch of people said things that aren’t true about it.

But they already pay income tax on that money. This just looks like an extra “Fuck Bloggers!” tax.

All well and good of course, but if your blog isn’t a business it shouldn’t be subject to some business privilege tax.

How is a blog that reports income “not a business”? Blogs are magic?

$11 is not income and is not the makings of a business. It’s a little cash to offset the costs of running a blog in the first place.

That really just isn’t how anything works. If you make money, you make money. When you make money, certain rules apply. You need to torture the shit out of this scenario to invent a “fuck bloggers” tax, so that’s what you’re doing. For some reason I thought knowing what is actually true would assuage your concern. Go figure.

But if you’re counting the income, you also have to count the expenses. And anyone who makes $11 in ad money on a blog likely has around $500 in expenses (yearly Internet access plus a domain/server bill) that also need to be considered. At that point, the governement leaves you alone.

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/hobbyloss.asp

It’s called the Hobby Loss Rule. If you’re not making money, it’s a hobby and not a business.

From the way I read it, it’s not a tax on the income, that is different, it’s a license to even operate in the first place.

Let’s say you sell beer, you need a license to sell alcohol. Let’s say you open a bar and you sell only coffee. No one who comes in your bar buys beer or any other kind of alcohol. You still have to pay for a liquor license. It doesn’t matter whether you sell it or not.

I was thinking it’d be hard to enforce, because how do you define it. Do you just need a licsense if the blog has the potential to make money.

Obviously a blog that is soley opinion with no ads and no paypal or any other type donation button, would not be a business.

What are you talking about? A liquor license is granted to establishments for the privilege of selling alcoholic beverages. If you have no intention of selling alcoholic beverages, you don’t need a liquor license. If you sell food or other beverages, you need the appropriate licenses to sell those things. But not a liquor license. I can call my restaurant “Robin’s Coffee Bar” and no one – at least no one from the Liquor Control Board – will care.

Disregard my previous post. Airman just explained Markxxx’s point to me, and Markxxx is right.

That said, I can see Philadelphia enacting a sales-type of tax on blog services that you pay for; after all, there is a financial investment on the part of the blogger. I can also see the city requiring a tax on ad revenue earned by selling space. However, to bill someone for keeping a blog on a free site like Blogger just because he wants to keep his friends and family updated on his life is kind of stupid.

Right, but per Jimmy Chitwood, that part is made up. They’re only requiring blogs which operate as a business to pay the licensing fee.

My understanding is that the article is basically saying, “Chicago is charging a tax on anyone who wants to make a pizza!” when Chicago is actually requiring pizza restaurants to pay a licensing fee.

Mine, too. Seems simple enough - if you use your blog to generate revenue (whether it’s profit or not), you have to get a business license. If you aren’t using your blog to generate revenue, you don’t.

How 'bout selling old stuff at a yard sale? It generate revenue; should that need a business license?

Selling stuff at a yard sale isn’t an ongoing thing. If you sell stuff every week, then maybe you should need a license.

It’s like this. If you sell, on a continuing basis, birds or firearms or blog advertising space, you have a business (if you sell your firearm collection at a one-time yard sale, you’ve made a sale, which is something else). If you want to have a business and you’re in Philadelphia, you have to have a business license, and that is technically true no matter how piddling your business is. You also pay business taxes. That terrible story linked in the OP conflates the lifetime licensing fee, which is $300, with business taxes, which obviously depend on what kind of money you’re making, and comes up with a claim of a $300 business tax on $11 profit. In fact, that $300 would have gotten the blogger a lifetime license to operate that blog as a business registered in Philadelphia. The other option would be to pay a yearly licensing fee, but that would be less than $300, so that terrible reporter didn’t mention it.

The news here is that bloggers up to this point weren’t paying for these licenses (even though they’ve always been technically eligible for the requirement) but were reporting that they were making money, and the city, which doesn’t have two dimes to rub together, sent out notices saying hey, if you’re receiving money, you need a license to do that.

The business privilege tax is just that. The city taxes you for the privilege of having a business in the City of Philadelphia. As the city tax office says

“Every individual, partnership, association and corporation engaged in a business, profession or other for-profit activity in the City of Philadelphia, regardless of whether they earned a profit during the preceding year”

The tax certainly isn’t new but some bright child in the revenue office figured out that blogs that earned revenue off ads could be considered a business. Not too different from someone in New York Taxation office figuring out that sliced bagels were subject to taxes and that restaurants should be collecting them.

What makes this incredibly stupid is that the city has managed to give itself a lot of lousy PR over tax revenue that probably wouldn’t cover the Mayor’s gas bill.

My company some years ago, decided to forgo the privilege of operating in the City and moved to the burbs. I can’t complain.