Philly Bloggers Feeling Overtaxed
by Matt McGee on Aug 24, 2010 in Industry
Some local bloggers in Philadelphia are angry about getting a tax bill from the city. Philadelphia telling bloggers that reported business income that they have to pay what’s called a Business Privilege License. It costs $50/year or $300 for a lifetime.
The issue seems to be that some affected bloggers are making peanuts from having ads (usually Google ads, I’d assume) — not even enough to pay for the license. From an AP story this week:
“I think it’s ludicrous,” said Seano Barry, whose blog Circle of Fits focuses on music in Philadelphia and offers up concert and music reviews.
“I review shows in the city. I sometimes write for a couple of other blogs,” he told The AP. “Sometimes I get access to the shows, sometimes I don’t. To put the ads up is to cover the cost of going downtown.”
In the last two years, Barry said he’s made about $11 and change from the tiny ads on his site, nothing else.
“This is not a business,” he said. “Really, it’s a labor of love.”
A couple Philadelphia council members are wanting to amend the law so that small businesses and bloggers won’t have to pay tax on small amounts of income. But the $50/$300 license would still apply, from what I’m reading in that story.
I see both sides on this. I have ads on my small business SEO blog, but I’m certainly not getting rich from them. I do report that income, though, and pay all necessary taxes to Uncle Sam. The law is the law. Until it changes, the Philly bloggers should do the same.
On the other hand, the city needs to recognize that the act of placing Google ads on a web site doesn’t automatically make you a business owner. For many, blogging is like what print fanzines used to be. (That’s a 1994 U2 fanzine at right.) Back in the day, fanzine publishers had to charge $5 or $10 per issue because it cost money to buy paper, to buy ink, to make copies, and to send out their fanzine via snail mail. But no one would confuse those folks with real business owners.
Some local blogs are the same way now: hosting costs money, cheap digital cameras cost money, gas to go to local events, parking, etc. — they all cost money. Putting Google ads isn’t about running a business for some, it’s about trying to cover costs. And those folks shouldn’t be forced to pay a Business Privilege License fee.