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Philly Requiring Bloggers To Pay $300 456

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the blood-from-blogger dept.
Kurofuneparry writes "Pennsylvania generally and Philadelphia specifically have had a number of budget issues and some bloggers are seeing the results. From the article: '... yes, cash-strapped cities can't very well ignore potential sources of income. But at the same time, there must be some room for discretion and common sense.'"
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Philly Requiring Bloggers To Pay $300

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  • by odies (1869886) * on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:50AM (#33340196)

    So she says he runs a blog with ads and profits from, but is surprised that she actually needs to pay taxes and the other usual legistation while running a business? Yes, just like the Google, IGN or other huge sites on the internet that make money by advertising, he is also running a business.

    It also looks like she only made like $50 between several years. That comes down to like $1-2 a month. Why not just drop the ads and continue blogging? If you really need a few dollars, just find a few bottles from the street and return them to stores.

  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:53AM (#33340226)

    The problem is that on her taxes, she was asked to list all sources of income. She was honest and listed the blog. Now, she's basically being punished for being honest.

    This is like the kid's lemonade stand that got shut down by the health department in Washington or Oregon earlier this month.

    There needs to be a little common-sense applied to the operation of governments.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:56AM (#33340284)

    She's not being punished for being honest, she's being expected to follow the same rules as everyone else. If you want to run a business, you need to have a license and pay taxes on your income. If your business doesn't make enough money to cover the license and taxes, don't run the business. If I were to open a store, and it was massively unsuccessful and only brought in a few dollars, would I suddenly be exempt from needing a license and paying taxes?

  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:57AM (#33340290) Journal

    but is surprised that she actually needs to pay taxes and the other usual legistation while running a business?

    Taxes are assessed as a percentage of your income in most cases. In this instance the city wants to compel her to obtain a "business license" and pay $300 for the privilege, regardless of the fact that the "business" in question didn't even gross that much income. It seems absurd that one should have to get permission from the city before one can write a blog on their home computer.

  • Lesson learned? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bai jie (653604) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:59AM (#33340326)
    It seems that the state only knows about these bloggers because they reported income made from blogs on their taxes. Seems like the lesson here is to not report small gains on your taxes else your state will fleece you.

    This is sad because these people did pay taxes on this tiny amount of income already on their income tax. By trying to be good citizens and play by the rules they are rewarded with a fee that would either put them out of business or make them less honest about their income in the future.
  • by God'sDuck (837829) on Monday August 23, 2010 @09:59AM (#33340328)

    Some governments have common sense -- I'm about to shut down my NJ photography "business" because I make less annually than the minimum amount where a business ID is required. Below that, it's legally a "hobby that makes money." You still owe income tax on the profits, but don't need to handle any extra paperwork. Blogging really should be the same...

  • by odies (1869886) * on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:01AM (#33340368)

    It seems absurd that one should have to get permission from the city before one can write a blog on their home computer.

    No one is saying you can't run a blog, or that you would need to get a permission. You just need to get a business license if you're making money with it, just like any other business. Just don't put ads on it and no one is asking you that $300.

  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:01AM (#33340376)

    I'm sure I will get flamed for this..

    While I personnaly do not consider people blogging, to be business entities, I do not make up the rules. Whether or not the rule is flawed here is not the point, until said rule is changed people will have to abide by it. I consider a blog by a corporate entity an extension of the business they are running or services they are providing.

    That being said, there should be some common sense involved when enforcing it based on the amount of income a blog generates. In the case of those referenced in to article, making them pay seems a little ridiculous.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:05AM (#33340434)

    what if the ad's pay for the website costs and $1-$2 is left over each month?

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:07AM (#33340482)

    There needs to be a little common-sense applied to the operation of governments.

    No, there need to be fewer and better thought out laws. A blanket $300 tax on any blog that makes money, for example, is not well thought out -- a better strategy would be a tax on blogs that turn more than, say, $1000/yr. in revenue, or perhaps a tax that cannot exceed the amount of money a blog made. Or perhaps not taxing blogs, and looking at other ways to reduce the budget gap (perhaps spending less on drug enforcement and other nonviolent crimes).

    Of course, there may be other things at work here. Like, lawmakers assuming that people fit into neat categories, and then passing laws that essentially enforce those categories.

  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:10AM (#33340518) Journal

    You just need to get a business license if you're making money with it

    That's absurd. Business licenses should only exist to generate the revenue required to regulate businesses that can harm the public. As an example, restaurants require safety inspections to ensure that they are preparing their food in a safe manner. Those inspections cost money. Requiring them to obtain a license to offset the cost of these inspections makes sense.

    In this instance it's just silly. A blog can harm no one. It can't cause your street traffic to increase or your property values to go down as a brick and mortar business can. Government regulation is neither needed nor permissible in this case.

    She can pay income taxes on her blog ads without needing a business license. I'm sorry, but I just don't see a way you can defend the requirement that someone obtain an expensive license from the city before they can publish their thoughts on the world wide web.....

  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:11AM (#33340530)
    Unless she is incorporated, it should be considered a personally owned business. Do 17 year olds who mow their neighbors' lawns have to pay this fee? Paying tax on the income ($50) makes sense, but paying $300 for being a business doesn't.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:14AM (#33340592)

    Keep your public outrage. It's not like we're talking about a small front-lawn lemonade stand. The kid made almost 2000$. At 50c each, that amounts to 4000+ sold drinks. Plus the stand was on a public fair (regularly if I understand it correctly). At that volume it is reasonable to start to apply professional rules.

  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:15AM (#33340602)

    Have you ever sold a book on Amazon? Or a knick-knack on eBay? Or run a website with ads? Or held a garage sale? Or sold a couch on Craigslist?

    Those are all sources of income and you are required, by law, to report them. And if you did so in Philly, you would be required to buy a $300 business license.

    But most of us don't bother to report such small transactions, so yes, she is being punished for her honesty.

  • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:16AM (#33340620)

    It's not absurd, it's restraint on speech. To say that you need a business license to use your free speech rights if that earns you a dollar is just absurd.

    It would be absurd - If this were actually a restraint on speech. If she dropped the ads (and thus the profits), she wouldn't have to get a business license, and would still have a blog with full free speech rights.

  • by hessian (467078) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:17AM (#33340640) Homepage Journal

    All those ads, Examiner.com payments, "send paypal donation" buttons, etc. have been untaxed income for a long time. All that's happening now is that states are awakening and correcting the balance.

    Asking for a business license so that you can publish content and be paid for it is not an unfair thing. In fact, it's fair to those who want to sell hot dogs instead, and also have to get licensed as a result.

  • It also looks like she only made like $50 between several years

    Yea, once she's done writing off all of her 'business expenses', website expenses, home office, computer equipment, (maybe even) a second car, travel & entertainment, etc. Just because you don't make any money, it doesn't mean that you aren't running a business.

    Of course $300 sounds like a rather high price for a business license, particularly for an enterprise which might not take in more than $20,000/ year. Seems to me that Philly would be well advised to graduate it based on revenue and/or claimed expenses.

  • by Bruha (412869) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:20AM (#33340692) Homepage Journal

    I'm willing to bet the hot dog man makes more than 50 dollars a year off hot dogs.

  • Slippery slope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wonko the Sane (25252) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:25AM (#33340780) Journal

    This kind of result is to be expected once you concede the point that a person requires permission from the government (a license) in order to engage in commerce.

    Once you have agreed to be a serf it's hardly surprising when you get treated like one.

  • by stdarg (456557) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:25AM (#33340790)

    Sounds more like the kid needs to be congratulated and helped. Rather than shut the girl's "business" down, why didn't the government do something like help her come up to code? It would have been a much better public relations maneuver.

  • by KindMind (897865) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:26AM (#33340806)
    Taxes are one thing - I agree with you there. But the business license is based on where the business is. If the hosted content is outside the Philadelphia area, I don't see how they could enforce a business license. Like if I live in Philadelphia, but I own an auto parts business in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia can't charge me for a business license. I don't see how this is any different. On a side note, how does Philadelphia even know what she paid in taxes? That should be confidential information between her and the state and the IRS.
  • by stephathome (1862868) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:34AM (#33340952)
    She's doing business in Philadelphia by doing the work of blogging there. No matter where she's hosted, her physical presence while working on her blog counts for something.
  • But as the parent poster pointed out, Philly can't tax assets that aren't located in it's jurisdiction. This isn't an "income" tax, it's a business license - and the "business" is hosted outside Philly's physical boundaries - all the transactions take place elsewhere. It's like you own a store in Alamo, Texas, and Philly wants to charge you a business license. There's no legal basis.

    Also, there's a First Amendment issue. This will definitely have a chilling effect on free speech.

  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:42AM (#33341114) Journal

    I agree with you. The city doesn't have a leg to stand on here. They are just hoping that most people will pony up the fee without fighting them. Sadly they are probably right.....

  • by VJ42 (860241) * on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:47AM (#33341198)

    Keep your public outrage. It's not like we're talking about a small front-lawn lemonade stand. The kid made almost 2000$. At 50c each, that amounts to 4000+ sold drinks. Plus the stand was on a public fair (regularly if I understand it correctly). At that volume it is reasonable to start to apply professional rules.

    Get of that moral high-horse - you never sold your car second hand? Did you declare it? I know plenty of people who have sold their cars on second hand for ~£1500 - AFAIK not one has bothered to file a tax return at all (99% of people here don't have to, see my other post). So didn't declare it by default. HMRC knows this happens all the time, but it would cost them more to collect the small amount of tax due than they would get back, same thing in the case of this kids lemonade stand - $2000 is small fry - closing the tax loopholes for multi-millionaire company directors is a far more efficient way of collecting more tax.

  • by Yaa 101 (664725) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:51AM (#33341284) Journal

    And the common sense is not to be honest to the government since they aren't honest to us to begin with, because most are chosen as a result of lies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:54AM (#33341354)
    Private re-sale doesn't attract taxation - you don't pay taxes on your used car, but if you were buying and selling several cars per month, for profit, even if you could otherwise prove you were using them for personal transportation, you would definitely be expected to declare it.
  • by bem (1977) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:56AM (#33341386) Homepage

    However, since she can prove she loses money, she should ask the city to exempt her from ALL municipal taxes, as she is obviously a non-profit.

    Being unprofitable is not the same as being a non-profit.

  • by thousandinone (918319) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:58AM (#33341416) Journal
    So politicians shouldn't make money then? Do you have any idea what the implication of that is?

    You may not realize it, but pretty much any political position involves a significant investment of time. However misguided or untrustworthy you consider their actions to be, it still represents a significant amount of time on their part.

    Enough that a full time job along side it isn't an option. So do you expect everyone who works in politics to work a part time job on the side to cover costs? Do you seriously believe that they would be able to earn a living wage doing this?

    No, fact of the matter is, if politicians weren't paid for their positions, it would just mean more bribery, best case. Worst case, the only ones able to actually maintain a political position would need to have a large corporation of some form backing them. We have enough bribery and corporate lobbying going on as is. Do you REALLY want to make it a requirement for all politicians? It's bad enough that so many do it ANYWAY.
  • by 2obvious4u (871996) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:03AM (#33341482)
    You do not have to follow bad rules. You do have to live by the consequences of not following a bad rule, but you should never obey a bad rule or law. You should disobey it fervently and work to get it corrected. As long as you can live with the consequences that may come your way from disobeying it, be it fines or even jail time.

    Where would we be if we didn't constantly challenge bad laws through civil disobedience? Well for starters we wouldn't be able to drink alcohol, some of us would still be forced to sit on the back of the bus, and we'd still be ruled by the British. Oh and we'd line up in colored uniforms in strait lines shooting at each other...

    People who obey rules just because it is a rule are a problem. Always question the rules and why the rule is needed, you may find that many rules aren't needed once you explain the reason behind it.
  • by Zeek40 (1017978) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:31AM (#33341956)
    Yeah, the government helping a 7 year old run a lemonade stand is really a good use of taxpayer dollars when our economy is on the brink of collapse.
  • Being charged $300 for a business license for a "business" that only makes $10 a year is ridiculous. Blogs don't need health inspections, they don't need parking, or building inspectors, or any other government service that could possibly justify a business license.

    This is exactly the sort of government abuse that drives people into the black market.

  • RTFA

    She is being charged a flat $300 for a "privilege license", on top of any income tax. Being a flat fee that does not take into account how much, or little in this case, the business is making the fee is a punishment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:50AM (#33342364)

    Yes, you can. The word is "elegant".

    No one should ever have to pay a fee on a "business" that is more than the business makes.

    A 2,000 page bill isn't well thought out. Especially not when 90%+ of the people supposed to vote on it haven't read it.

  • by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:58AM (#33342540)
    No, you only report capital gains. So unless you you're selling that book/couch/garage sale item/knick-knack on ebay for more than you bought it for it needn't be reported. This is also why you don't have to report selling a personal used car - there usually aren't any gains.
  • by jeff4747 (256583) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:10PM (#33343678)

    In the article, it explicitly states that she does not run a business

    And if it helped on their taxes, I'm sure Wal-Mart would explicitly state that they are not running a business. Retail stores are just their hobby.

    This is why there's rules about what is and isn't a business, and they have very little to do with the protestations of the person running the business/non-business.

  • by BlueStrat (756137) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:29PM (#33344020)

    Yeah, the government helping a 7 year old run a lemonade stand is really a good use of taxpayer dollars when our economy is on the brink of collapse.

    Whatever gave anyone the impression the government (either/both parties) could even successfully run a lemonade stand, and particularly without their presence as a partner giving it advantages over non-government "assisted" lemonade stands, thus shrinking the number/size of the non-"assisted" competition and thus consumer market choice?

    Larger governments mean more senseless bureaucratic/legal/regulatory/etc enforcement stupidities, mistakes, and plain incompetence because people tend to do what gets them the least for the most, including (especially?) career government bureaucrats. The actual ramifications of their decisions typically occur far away, often involving people and local conditions & facts they have no clue about or even be hostile towards, but it's in their better interest to fill in the "correct" check-boxes and provide the "expected" answers on the government-mandated forms and not rock the boat until retirement.

    This is just one of the effects that have most often resulted when human nature and large bureaucracies with size & power mix, and would seem historically to correlate more closely with a government's size to an even greater degree than what ideological basis and/or type of government structure it operates from. It seems that the larger government of any type becomes, the more numerous and serious "system errors" become as each layer of complexity and reach adds more and more less-than-idealistic, human-nature "noise" into the system, until it "crashes" (economic/social/political collapse).

    Strat

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday August 23, 2010 @01:38PM (#33344146)

    just so they get the opportunity to aggravate the hell out of the IRS.

    My money's on the tax man. Any takers? :-)

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"

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