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City of Philadelphia charging bloggers hundreds, robbing citizens of opportunity

BSH at the Winter Classic, just because it's a little hot in my house today.
BSH at the Winter Classic, just because it's a little hot in my house today.

Editor's Note: We don't get into politics on this blog often. In fact, I don't believe we ever have. This, however, is an issue that could directly impact this blog and, honestly, any one of you. We want your opinion, but don't let it get out of hand and please, don't use any labels -- liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, etc. Just debate the issue on its merits.

This site might not exist if a new law being enforced by the City of Philadelphia were in effect a few years ago.

An article in this morning's Philadelphia City Paper (h/t @dchesnokov and @emcerlain) details a new decision by the city to charge bloggers a $300 fee for a "business privilege license," even if said blogger makes no money off of their blog.

That's right. Do you run a small, nobody-reads-this-anyway-so-I'm doing-this-just-for-fun blog about how many different ways you can tie your shoelaces into clever little knot-puppets? Do you happen to have little Google ads on the side, perhaps there only for the sole reason of paying server costs?

Oh, well, City Hall wants your money. A lot of it.

From the City Paper:

After dutifully reporting even the smallest profits on their tax filings this year, a number — though no one knows exactly what that number is — of Philadelphia bloggers were dispatched letters informing them that they owe $300 for a privilege license, plus taxes on any profits they made.


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.

I'm not going to sit here and argue that the City doesn't have the right to tax legitimate business within their limits, but that's not what this is about. Do kids have to get these licenses and pay these taxes on their allowances, now? After all, they're providing a service in exchange for money -- isn't that a business?

They've made the decision to tax people out of money they don't even have.

And the idea of a "business privilege" license -- I should feel privileged to operate a business in thee great land of brotherhood and love! -- is absolutely ludicrous. I know, every city has business licenses in one form or another, but that name just irks me.

I don't live in the Philadelphia proper, nor do any of the other bloggers who write at this site, but if we did, it appears we would be subjected to this law. (Actually, I suppose SBN would, and since they're not a Philly-based company, it likely wouldn't matter. That doesn't mean this isn't a big deal, however.)

A lot of people might say something like, "well, it seems unfair, but every business is subjected to this, no matter the size, and if you're not making money anyway, just take down the small, meaningless ads."

When I started blogging two years ago, I wouldn't have been able to afford a $300 fee. Yet at the same time, I needed to keep ads on my pre-SBN site to earn enough to cover the server costs and the domain registration. None of the money went into my pocket. It wasn't a lot of money and the small ads were enough to cover costs, but without them, I wouldn't have been able to run the site.

I wouldn't have been able to run my site, build that up to the point where I could apply to be run a new Flyers site at SB Nation, build that Flyers site into what it is today and ultimately become hockey manager here. It wouldn't have been possible.

By enforcing this law on bloggers who make little-to-no-money off of their sites, the City of Philadelphia is robbing its citizens of the opportunity to create. It's robbing them -- and the city itself, really -- at a change to innovate.

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