Philadelphia Levies $300 Blog Tax on Bloggers

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The city of Philadelphia has taken that age-old pastime – trying to get blood out of a stone – to a new high tech high: trying to get money out of a hobby blogger. Philadelphia may be the ‘city of brotherly love’, but it’s certainly not the city of bloggerly love, especially not with Philadelphia charging bloggers what amounts to a $300 blogging tax. Oh sure, Philadelphia officials call it a “business privilege license”, but when you require it of someone who hasn’t monetized their blog at all, well, that’s not much of a business model, is it? Of course, it’s a dandy business model for Philadelphia, right up there with states charging an affiliate sales tax.

Take, for example, Philadelphia blogger Marilyn Bess. Bess has a small blog hosted on the WordPress blog site, called Ms. Philly Organic.


In the past 2 years, since she started the blog, she has posted a grand total of 45 posts.

In the past 12 months she has posted exactly 4 posts.

Moreover, she has no revenue generating content on the site that we could find. No “Ads by Gooooogle”, no banner ads, no pop-ups, no text links – nothing.

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In fact, although interviews with Bess have suggested that she may have earned as much as $50 through her blog (total), given that it’s hosted on WordPress.com, which is a paid platform, she is probably losing money on this hobby blog that she maintains out of her pocket because she cares about the environment around her home town of Philadelphia.

Nonetheless, a few months ago, Marilyn Bess was informed by the city of Philadelphia that she needed to pay $300 for a business privilege license.

Says Bess, “The real kick in the pants is that I don’t even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous.”

 

And Bess is by far not the only blogger to be hit with a demand to pay $300 for a business privilege license.

Sean Barry, who goes by the monicker “Seano”, is just one of countless other Philedelphia bloggers who also received the demand. Seano’s blog, Circle of Fits, does have some advertising on it, however he has to share the advertising revenue with the blog host, BlogSpot.com (owned by Google).

According to Barry, his total advertising revenue take over the past two years has been $11.00.

How do you balance $11.00 against $300.00?

Says Barry, “Personally, I don’t think Circle of Fits is a business.”

But the city of Philadelphia, and in particular the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, disagree. PDoR official Andrea Mannino explains that the very act of choosing to display income-generating ads on a blog puts the blogger in the category of a “business”, requiring that they purchase a business privilege license.

Seano Barry says, in a statement on his blog, “Listen, I don’t make any money on this blog… I said I have made 11 dollars over the course of two years from my ads..that will get you lukewarm Bud Light at a Phillies game…What I didn’t say, is that I don’t even know how to GET that 11 dollars that I’ve made…it’s out in the digital ether somewhere…”

Unfortunately for Barry, Philadelphia doesn’t really care how he gets at that $11.00, or even if he gets it; so long as they get their $300 business privilege license fee.

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The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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