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Government The Almighty Buck Your Rights Online

Philly Requiring Bloggers To Pay $300 456

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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  • 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. There is likely an income threshold where a business license isn't needed if you don't make enough money.

    She needs a lawyer. If the state laws in PA really are that fucked up and she needs a business license, she could take it to court and it will likely be found unconstitutional.

    If she does get the business license though, she can now write off all business expenses including the time she used to write in the blog. That includes a percentage of her home bills that are a needed as a part of the business.

    Her federal taxable income will go way down and she will be eligible for small business tax deductions and credits.

  • by rwv ( 1636355 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:08AM (#33340492) Homepage Journal

    I seems absurd that one can operate a webpage that serves advertisements that don't generate enough review to afford basic cost-of-business fees.

    If I sold cupcakes from my kitchen, but only earned $50/year... I may not stop making cupcakes but I'd throw in the towel pretending that I'm operating a business.

    To bloggers who make a pittance serving ads on their blogs... TAKE THOSE ADS DOWN!

  • by mmontalvo ( 831939 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:15AM (#33340600)
    The IRS would consider this to be nothing more than a hobby. They define a business as an entity that is expected to make a profit. This clearly would not be expected to make a profit.
  • Re:Bad Summary in OP (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:23AM (#33340738)

    Anything that doesn't aim to recoup it's own costs, let alone make a profit isn't a business. This intent is fully visible, that operating several years with loss, that she goes on funding her hobby without making changes.

    But two wrongs don't make a right. Philadelphia has been losing population since the 1950s, partly with shit like this. In fact, all of PA has budget troubles, but not because the government doesn't rake enough cash in, but in both cases because of having too many union workers, ridiculous pensions, and spending too much. In fact, they are raising the school taxes here because of the losses in the 2008-9 stock market decline and apparently the teachers can gamble in the market and never lose. I believe Philly too was looking how to recover cityworker pensions though increased taxes? But who will bail out the taxpayers?

    And whoever wrote the line in the summary "yes, cash-strapped cities can't very well ignore potential sources of income." Fuck you. The taxpayers are not some piggybank to be siphoned off at will. There are very few places I see that really cut spending even though the private sector does. The governments' job used to be to carry out it's limited enumerated duties and impose a tax needed to cover it, not maximize it's own revenue.

  • by Skraut ( 545247 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:27AM (#33340836) Journal
    Net Income != Profits. She probably didn't make enough to pay for her hosting. Perhaps we need to go back to the model where people get free hosting in exchange for a 3rd party putting ads on the site. Then Bloggers can blog without having to report the "income" of trying to cover some of their expenses.
  • by iamwahoo2 ( 594922 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:30AM (#33340886)
    You should only need a business license if you are a business. It is perfectly legal to declare this small amount of income as personal income and pay normal taxes on it. In fact, the IRS would prefer it that way and may not even allow you to declare this as a business if you tried. The cities employees causing this problem are clearly ignorant of the applicable laws.
  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:39AM (#33341038) Journal

    The choice to incorporate is not one that the state can require you to do. It is a matter of liability. Anyone who has studied the history corporations know they are 100% about liability. If she wants to blog and generate income, then she does it with her personal liability on the line (for slander, etc)

    However, it is generally a good thing to incorporate. She will be able to deduct from her taxes in full or part, the cost of her internet connection, time blogging, etc as un-reimbursed business expenses. So she'll actually make out better because the corporation pays bills first, then pays taxes. Humans pay taxes first, then pay bills. Meaning that her company money will go farther than her personal money in paying for things. About every rich person I know has at least one fiction (a company) in their name. This means, the state will actually lose money. There is a small discrepancy when the cost of the business ($300) exceeds profits, but she can use the corporation for something else as well. She certainly doesn't live on $11/mo

    Standard caveats apply, IANAL, IANAA (accountant) , YMMV, etc. I do however have a corp.

    The ancient principle of the Anglo-Saxon common law, and Biblical law, is that everyone has a right to make a living at occupations of common right. So then, what is an occupation of common right? It is the right of all men in common to do any work that men might engage one another to do, and that does not exist as a result of some government act or establishment. Occupations of common right were some of those “inalienable rights” the writers of the Declaration of Independence had in mind. At least, that was the US supreme court’s opinion in Butchers Union v. Crescent City Co., 111 US 746:

    “The right to follow any of the common occupations of life is an inalienable right. It was formulated as such under the phrase “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence which commenced with the fundamental proposition that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”This right is a large ingredient in the civil liberty of the citizen.”


  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:41AM (#33341082) Journal
    Except this isn't about income tax - it's about a permit to operate a business within the city limits. The "business" operates on the server. Unless the server is hosted in the city, they can go p*ss up a rope.

    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.

    After all, she no longer has to prove that she runs a "business". The city has already stipulated that. The only question is, is it for profit or a non-profit. Since revenues will never exceed expenses, hello muni tax rebate!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:51AM (#33341268)

    Not only do 17 year olds mowing their neighbors' lawns have to pay this fee if they operate their business within city boundaries, they also have to pay the self-employment FICA tax rate in addition to paying any federal tax their earned income incurs.

    If the neighbors don't verify that the teenager is operating an official business (with their own tools, liability and worker's compensation insurance) they could be liable for some serious change. A politically motivated neighbor would have serious trouble if they ran for public office without doing these things. More than one political career has been ruined - because of filing false tax returns when not paying the appropriate "nanny tax."

    Pretty, isn't it?

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:51AM (#33341278) Journal

    Freedom of the press is afforded only to those who can afford a press.

  • by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:54AM (#33341352)

    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?

    You're also required to report barters on your income tax in both Canada and the US. This seems like a system that could probably be broken with over the top honesty. I wonder what would happen if someone reported swapping lunches with a coworker on a regular basis.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 23, 2010 @10:54AM (#33341362)

    garage sales are not *sources* of income.
    It's a loss recovery on previously taxed dollars. Until your sale price exceeds the purchase price, there's no income.

  • by hAckz0r ( 989977 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:01AM (#33341462)

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    If the law bars you (e.g. 'free exercise', as in freedom, not as in beer) from blogging then it it unconstitutional and is therefore null and void under the US Constitution Amendment 1. If your soap-box cost you money to stand on then it would be an illegal tax on the privilege of exercising your freedom to speak. Charging you a 'business tax' is the same thing, and this tax as described does not even take into account the fact that the equipment, services, electricity, etc, likely cost more than any advertising revenue taken in, so there is no profit to tax, only a free speech tax. Charging a 'business tax' on a personal exercise of the US Constitution should be illegal until such time that the individual' NET profits exceeds the taxable amounts allowed by law under the personal income tax regulations. If the taxable amount goes high enough then that individual should file quarterly taxes as any individual would be obligated. Under no circumstances should this individual be considered a business, until the applicable laws force them to do so, or become one. Of course with that said, liability insurance as a protected corporate entity might not be a bad idea in this day and age, and that would likely be a deductible expense.

    IANAL, so don't listen to me.

  • by novium ( 1680776 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:03AM (#33341492)
    The issue with the lemonade stand, as I recall, was not tax issues but rather the lack of a temporary vendor's license from the health department. Which is quite reasonable if you have a booth at a farmer's market type-thing and serving a business-level number of customers. That's not a kid on a corner selling lemonade. That's an honest-to-god vendor, unless you think she was able to haul down all the stuff needed for a booth at those kind of things herself?
  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @11:47AM (#33342284)

    Business licenses should only exist to generate the revenue required to regulate businesses that can harm the public.

    But blogs can definitely harm the public; they might give them information they are not ready for, causing them to vote so the wrong lizard wins. Everyone here is always talking about how the "sheep" vote whoever will give them the most rather than whoever will give the writer most, and we wouldn't want that, right? A mean, mean blogger might say mean, mean things about her wise and benevolent overlords, and have them replaced by some populist who'll cater to the public rather than the local elite, and that would be communism.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday August 23, 2010 @12:39PM (#33343210) Homepage Journal

    And Philly wants to make sure that's as few people as possible. That COULD be viewed as a constructive violation of the 1st amendment.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser