On the home page of the city of Philadelphia’s Web site, the slogan “Life, Liberty and You” appears at the top. Immediately beneath it is a bank of links where citizens can make online payments for city fines, taxes, and fees.
The City of Brotherly Love and the cradle of U.S. independence also recently began enforcing a business privilege license on the city’s bloggers. Residents operating Web sites that earn money may choose either to pay a one-time $300 fee or $50 each year. The move is being characterized as a way to generate revenues for the city’s budget shortfall.
“Philly is levying a $300 license fee on bloggers?” asked Detroit News political cartoonist Henry Payne, who also blogs and edits The Michigan View Web site. “Sounds like something King George III would have levied to keep Tom Jefferson from penning the Declaration of Independence. How about a $300 license fee on being a tax-grubbing city bureaucrat? We bloggers will soon be a sub-class of scofflaws illegally blogging after midnight to the glow of our illegal incandescent light bulbs.”
‘Greedy Tax Collectors’
Philadelphia City Paper intern Valerie Rubinsky broke the story on August 18. Rubinsky reported municipal residents who had reported Web site income on their federal tax returns had received correspondence from the city reminding recipients they were required to apply for the license and pay city taxes on their Web income.
“Activity for profit and blogging aren’t words usually used in the same sentence—or ZIP code, but the greedy tax collectors in Philadelphia City Hall have decided bloggers now qualify as for-profit businesses subject to a $300 privilege license,” said Payne. “The City of Brotherly Love is going to get a lot less civil as city tax agents kick down the door of every college kid, soccer mom, and tea partier blogging in their spare time.”
‘Stamp Act Is Back’
A phone call to the city’s Business Services office for clarification was terminated by a city employee when the purpose of the call was identified as source material for this story.
“The Stamp Act is back, with the Crown meting out its pound of flesh from citizen free speech practitioners,” said Seton Motley, editor in chief of StopNetRegulation.org.
“Taxing bloggers will only do what taxing always does—drive the least among us out of the business,” Motley continued. “Shutting up bloggers by shutting them down is an assault on the First Amendment. There’s no cover charge to get into the Constitution. At least there shouldn’t be.”
Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is managing editor of Info Tech & Telecom News.
“Pay Up,” Philadelphia City Paper, August 18, 2010: http://citypaper.net/articles/2010/08/19/blogging-business-privilege-tax-philadelphia
Philadelphia Privileged Business Licensing Permit application: http://business.phila.gov/Documents/Licenses/bizpriv.pdf