By Andrew O’Brien
So ya wanna be a Philly blogger, eh? Hope you have $300, which apparently is the going rate for your minimally profitable blog about the Phillies, hipster beer and dumb pictures of your fat dog.
Philadelphia City Paper has the scoop: (hat tip from homeboy and muckraking watchdog S.F. Keppen)
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.
It’s no secret the city has money problems, and one must give them some credit for due diligence in exploring sources of revenue that were previously ignored. This is too diligent, however, and simply makes the city look bad. In this age of Big Government fear and recessionary despair, charging for hobbies is not the best public relations. Doesn’t the city have enough on its plate battling the daily accusations of corruption, cronyism and sheer incompetence that plague it?
Other Philadelphia bloggers with similar “potential-for-profit” sites have received the same letter from the city. Though they argue (common-sensically) that a business privilege tax is an unnecessary expense for someone who does not consider their website a business, the City of Philadelphia disagrees:
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.
What’s next, Philadelphia? Requiring business privilege licenses for wearing a shirt with a brand on it? After all, that person technically is advertising, and could be spotted on the street by a talent scout and offered a sponsorship contract. They could potentially profit from that.
By the city’s estimation, anything that has the potential to be for profit requires a business privilege license. That basically covers everything except the city itself, but it apparently figures it can make itself profitable – and then buy the $300 license.
This revenue-raising strategy may be around for the long haul:
In June, City Council members Bill Green and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez unveiled a proposal to reform the city’s business privilege tax in an effort to make Philly a more attractive place for small businesses. If their bill passes, bloggers will still have to get a privilege license if their sites are designed to make money, but they would no longer have to pay taxes on their first $100,000 in profit. (If bloggers don’t want to fork over $300 for a lifetime license, Green suggests they take the city’s $50-a-year plan.)
Their bill will be officially introduced in September. “There’s a lot of support and interest in this idea,” Green says.
The bill has noble intentions – to help small business – but shouldn’t there be a minimum for what is considered profit? Say, $100/month?
Fortunately, My Daily Take’s headquarters are a traffic-congested expressway ride outside the city’s limits. We funnel the profits through an offshore bank account and then hold our tequila-fueled weekend orgies in Philly.
How’s that for sticking it to The Man?