The Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves. In Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, the city government has proposed smacking bloggers — our generation’s pamphleteers — with a $300 business tax. Yes, they are now requiring a license for Internet activists and hobbyists to exercise their free speech.
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. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads — regardless of how much or little money is actually generated — qualifies a blog as a business. The same rules apply to freelance writers. As former City Paper news editor Doron Taussig once lamented [Slant, “Taxed Out,” April 28, 2005], the city considers freelancers — which both Bess and Barry are, in addition to their blog work — “businesses,” and requires them to pay for a license and pay taxes on their profits, on top of their state and federal taxes.
The City of Brotherly Love is in dire financial straits, facing a $179 million shortfall for 2011. Same old tired liberal solutions: Tax, tax, tax. The blogger tax comes on top of new hikes on existing taxes, a new tobacco-products tax, a property tax increase and a higher commercial trash fee.
Time for overtaxed Philadelphians to go Galt. What are you waiting for?