Posted August 23, 2010 12:35 pm by with 24 comments

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Imagine you live in Philadelphia and you have a blog. You are like about 99.9 percent of the world’s bloggers so you make no money and the blog is a labor of love.

Now imagine that you are going to be charged $300 for the privilege of having your blog start from the City of Brotherly Love. Yup, that’s right, Philly is hitting bloggers with this and other measures. If you haven’t had enough of the government on every level getting into everyone’s business this may put you over the top.

This comes from NBC Philadelphia’s web site:

Taking a step closer to an eerie Orwellian state where creativity is crushed in the name of “the greater good,” the city of Philadelphia is demanding that bloggers pay $300 for the privilege of writing on the Internet.

This $300 “business privilege license” is for all local bloggers – even the ones that make no money off their words.

The city doesn’t stop there. In addition to the $300 for the license to write on the World Wide Web, bloggers must pay city wage taxes, business privilege taxes and taxes on any net profits — on top of state and federal taxes — even if the blogger only made $11 over two years, reports the City Paper.

Blogger Marilyn Bess, whose Ms. Philly Organic Blog has made her a whopping $50 over the past few years, went to the city’s tax amnesty program to explain that she makes pennies on her hobby. They told her to hire an accountant, she told the City Paper.

I know of more than a few bloggers that call Philadelphia home and I wonder what they are thinking about this approach.

I just want to go on record as saying that this is completely ridiculous. I get that things are bad. I get that the government provides services (how well they provide them is a completely different matter for a different place). I get that it takes money to do things but taking this action?

My hope is that other regions are not as desperate or ignorant to do this as well. Although I live in North Carolina where our governor thought it was a great idea to tax all Amazon affiliate sales in the state and Amazon basically said “Screw you!”. That eseentially closed that door on people who were just trying to bring more money into the state that would be spent in the state.

What is your take on this action by the city of Philadelphia? I think you already know mine.

  • This is absolutely the dumbest proposal ever.

    • @Ryan – Doesn’t appear to be a proposal. It looks like it’s the law now.

      • @Frank – Apparently I need more coffee. (it’s only 10:17am here) I guess I’ll have to check Phili off the list of cities I’d ever choose to live in. 😐

        • @Ryan – No problem. I am still shaking my head and wondering how this can be real no matter what time of day it is!

  • How do they determine that the blog is “from” Philadelphia? If it’s hosted there? If I was a blogger I’d just move my hosting and hide the domain reg info. All this will do is hurt local hosting companies.

    • @Rob – I had the same questions and quite honestly they are pretty vague. Looks like proxy services might be getting a work out from the 215 area code 😉

  • Why isolate bloggers when you could argue every individual who makes a post anywhere on line should be registered as a publisher and pay all applicable licenses, fees, and taxes?

  • I find this absolutely SHOCKING. Kind of kills that whole idea of “Free speech,” huh?

  • I would hide everything as well. That is absolutely crazy so are they going to to go through everyone’s domain’s and then start fining them? Is it just for new bloggers? What the heck… I mean that is ridiculous… Will this trend start to happen in other cities and how long do you think this will last?

  • So what exactly constitutes a “blog” then? Is it only those sites that has some form of advertising on? Otherwise, Facebook “notes” and Myspace blogs could be counted, for example.

  • Tom

    How can this be legal? Surely a good lawyer can take the city to school on this. It sounds like Philadelphia might as well start claiming they own the Internet too. Ridiculous.

  • How are they ever going to enforce this? What constitutes a blog? What about a micro-blog platform like twitter? What about a content site with articles not posts? Will this affect affiliate marketers in Philly?

    What exactly constitutes a blog from Philadelphia? What if its about Philly and hosted elsewhere? What if it’s hosted in Philly and about Philly but the blogger resides elsewhere? What if the domain reg is private? Are they going to subpoena domain reg info?

    It seems to me as though this plan was formulated either by someone wholly ignorant of the Internet, or it’s a play by someone to get attention and they don’t actually expect the city to collect.

  • Cynthia Boris

    I’m finding it hard to believe that this is real. The original news story claims ONE woman got notice from the city, but I haven’t seen a jpg of that notice or heard of anyone else getting one. Are we sure this isn’t some trick to get traffic to a site?

    • I would hope that NBC Philadelphia wouldn’t stoop that low.

      • Cynthia Boris

        But they weren’t the original source, right? It was Philadelphia City Paper. It’s a freebie paper given away throughout the city. Not saying that their reporters can break a story but it’s interesting how it’s taken off. I don’t know, it all feels very balloon boy to me.

        • Fay

          I live in Philadelphia. City Paper has been around for decades, and can break stories and has done it in the past. Freebie papers make money off of advertisements, just like all publications. City Paper is not some little paper who needs readers.

          Sadly, the mayor was on the news last night, saying that all businesses require a license to operate in Philadelphia, and to them a blog is a business. He said that. This mayor recently wanted to impose a “soda tax”. People can’t get out of this city fast enough.

  • John P

    Where’s the ACLU when you need ’em?

    John P.

    • @photogoofer

      The world has become an episode of Monty Python! Am I in Philadelphia?? I’ll never tell…

  • This is absolutely ridiculous and uncalled for. Why should we pay $300 dollars for a right that is free elsewhere. Does Philly operate the internet, blogging industry or any of the affiliate schemes going around? NO!

    Even though I’m from the UK, this is stupid.

  • I have absolutely NO problem with this IF a blogger attempts to monetize their blog or use it for commercial purposes such as promoting their website.

    If you run a website that collects income of any kind, you run a business. There’s really no debate or discussion or complaining that should be tolerated. Businesses pay for business licenses. And the income is taxable too so you’ve got federal issues if you’re not declaring the income. You know that every major ad platform and aff program sends 1099s over $600. But that doesn’t relieve taxpayers from declaring all income sources.

    Personal blogs should absolutely be hands-off, and I hope there’s an amendment fixing that soon. But if you put up a tip jar or an Amazon link or AdSense, you’re running a business.

    While we’re on the subject, you do know that your eBay earnings are taxable no matter how low the amount, right?

    And you know that many states require you to pay a tax when you buy something from out of state and do not pay state or local taxes. I remember physicians and hospitals getting nailed for that one in NJ about a decade ago.

    Businesses are taxed. I don’t see a gray area. I know many don’t declare income if a 1099 isn’t issued, but that doesn’t mean they’re right.

    And it sounds like Philadelphia businesses (even those run from home) are complaining about buying a business license. I think the solution is to lobby for an exemption for personal blogs and stop trying to be a business.

    The “free speech” argument related to taxation is an absolute non-issue in my opinion.

  • Dvishnu

    There is another option for bloggers…. Noncompliance….. Start putting up mirror sites and use open source software… Let the parasites starve……

    • You mean break the law and risk legal and regulatory action over $300? That doesn’t strike me as very smart. I wasn’t aware that locales in a nation like the US with one of the lowest tax rates in the industrialized world should be called “parasites”. I’ve talked with UK clients who want to hire me because they don’t want to do business in the UK given the tax situation.

      Where I live and work in suburban Washington DC, I’m required to pay taxes on my income, plus pay a state corporation registration fee every year of nearly $300 plus pay a county business license fee.

      I guess the alternative is not having fewer teachers, fewer firefighters, fewer services of any kind.

  • St. Jimmy

    As a resident of Pennsylvania who lives near the Philadelphia area and an American, I have to say that I’m sick and tired of the local, state and federal government’s paternalism. Taxes upon taxes upon taxes. As an American I have had it with the government insisting people must do with less so government and their assorted corporate allies can have more and more and more. What’s next? Are they going to tax people for looking out their window? One of the biggest reason we’re having the economic problems we have now is because of current and previous governments who stupidly and myopically sold their people short by enacting politically expedient but fiscally reckless long term economic policies that favored corporate donors over their constituency.

    Why in the heck should anyone pay 300 dollars a year to run a blog site that makes little next to no money just because Rupert Murdoch and his pals in Big Main Stream Media don’t want competition?

  • Tatiana Covington

    Just don’t pay!