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All in all, I'd rather not be in Philadelphia

August 26, 2010

So you live in Philadelphia and you set up a blog. Since it's so easy, you signed up to carry Google Ads or something on your blog, and you get massive checks of $3.21 or so annually from them. Now the city has sent you a bill for a "business license fee" for $300.

The blog world has been all over this, but I've been waiting for TaxGrrrl, the definitive Philly tax blogger, to chime in, and now she has. An excerpt:

The license only applies to folks who are making money (even if it’s a little bit of money). It does not apply to folks who aren’t running a business or trying to make money. That means that bloggers who maintain a blog for the sake of sharing information but aren’t getting paid (or running ads, etc.) are off the hook.

So, no vast conspiracy. No targeting bloggers. And no plan to try and silence free speech. No one was sitting around the Revenue Department searching online for Philadelphia bloggers. The City was acting on information that it got from the feds, something it does all of the time. It’s part of the normal information sharing that goes on (oh yeah, and states share information as between each other and the feds, too). A key difference this time was the scale of the notices and the speed at which information – even bad information – travels these days.

Of course, the City’s official position on all of this is that they’re merely trying to collect from taxpayers – each of whom should pay their fair share. That last bit is, I think, what’s really getting people going: What’s fair?

This $300 fee shouldn't exist to begin with. A city struggling to keep people working and businesses growing doesn't help itself with this sort of thing. And nothing forces the city to go after bloggers with a dozen readers and $1 in Google Ads revenue. It's as if they set up red-light cameras at every four-way stop in the city and started ticketing every car that failed to fully stop -- technically they have the legal right to do so, but what they are costing themselves with bad press and citizen annoyance has to outweigh any revenue benefits.

Other coverage:

TaxProf
Kay Bell
Instapundit
Tax Policy Blog

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