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Does Philadelphia Really Have a Blogging Tax?

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Philadelphia City Hall by Gabriel Millos on Flickr

Philadelphia City Hall by Gabriel Millos on Flickr

In the past few days, there have been several stories about Philadelphia’s requirement that bloggers who make any amount of money on their sites buy a business privilege license. Has Philly really become the City of Unbloggerly Love?

The uproar began last week with an article in The City Paper. According to the story, Marilyn Bess, author of the blog MS Philly Organic, received a letter from the city that said she’d have to cough up $300 for a lifetime business privilege license to keep her blog, which has made about $50 over the past few years, in business. And apparently Bess isn’t the only Philly blogger to get a letter requesting payment.

The city of Philadelphia requires a “business privilege license” for any enterprise engaged in an “activity for profit,” said tax attorney Michael Mandale to The City Paper. It doesn’t matter whether the business has actually turned a profit, mind you — just that they could.

The city has interpreted this to cover any bloggers within the city limits who put advertisements up on their sites or makes money in any way through their blogs, and includes even someone Bess whose income from the blog over several years is a small percentage of the cost of a lifetime license. A yearly license, alternately, would cost $50 annually.

Note that anyone running an enterprise engaged in an “activity for profit” is also expected to pay city taxes on either gross receipts or taxable net income.

As a comment on the Mashable article on this story noted, the business privilege license is nothing new in Philadelphia, although it would seem that the city’s seeking out bloggers based on the fact that they reported blog income on their taxes is a new twist.

What do you think of these license and tax requirements? Does your city or town have a similar structure?

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August 25th, 2010 at 10:19 am