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NONTROVERSEY DU JOUR: The Blog Tax

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TIME: Comparing the move to an Orwellian plot, NBC reports that the city of Philadelphia is set to require bloggers to purchase something called a business privilege license. Not really making money from your blog? Doesn’t matter, says NBC, you still have to pay for the license. MORE

CITY PAPER: For the past three years, Marilyn Bess has operated MS Philly Organic, a small, low-traffic blog that features blog_tax_rap.jpgoccasional posts about green living, out of her Manayunk home. Between her blog and infrequent contributions to ehow.com, over the last few years she says she’s made about $50. To Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it’s a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut. In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license. MORE

NEW YORK MAGAZINE: All the bloggers holed up in basements in the City of Brotherly Love and trying to survive off of Google AdSense revenue may be out of luck. The Philadelphia City Paper printed an article last week that revealed the sob stories of part-time freelance writers and bloggers who, despite making minuscule amounts per year through advertising, are still being forced to pay an annual $50 “privilege license” in accordance with the Business Privilege Tax. MORE

INQUIRER: Philadelphia was once again the subject of head-scratching and ridicule on Monday, this time with the “blog tax” controversy. On BuzzFeed, a popular website for stories, photos, and video competing to go viral, “Philadelphia Blogger’s License: $300″ was in the running, in between videos of a bored cat having a birthday party and Lady Gaga dancing at a Kiss concert. New York blog_tax_rap.jpgmagazine’s website weighed in, as did the Washington Post’s. The New York Daily News had a story about “Cash-strapped Philly” resorting to a blog “tax.” So does Philadelphia have a blog tax? The city says no. It has a business-privilege license that is required of any business operating in the city. The license costs $50 a year or $300 for a lifetime license. Well, some bloggers who barely make a few dollars from Web ads were informed recently that they had to obtain a license. Not because they were bloggers, the city says. But because they made money. MORE

FIREDOGLAKE: I know everyone has seen this story already. It’s being touted as though Philadelphia is requiring a blogging license – which is not true. Philadelphia is requiring bloggers who make money off of their sites (in the cited examples, pitifully little money) to set them up as businesses. City Paper notes that they have the same requirements for freelance writers in Philadelphia. Bloggers aren’t being unfairly targeted – anyone conducting any form of financial transaction is being targeted. MORE

WASHINGTON POST: Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve never supported the kind of municipal tax policy that takes bread off the table of artists, writers, freelancers and other small business owners who can least afford it. […] But, like every issue, there’s another side to the blog tax story. Since the recession hit two years ago, cities and states have been hurt by corporate layoffs that have caused payroll tax revenue to shrink. At the same time, local governments have been saddled with the burden of paying out unemployment benefits to millions of local residents who still haven’t found jobs. In the meantime, many laid-off employees are now freelancers and blog_tax_rap.jpgindependent contractors who are still living and working in the same cities and states that provide them with roads, schools and other essential services. That’s why I think it’s only reasonable to ask small business owners who can afford it to pay their fair share. I like the proposal introduced by Philadelphia City Council members Bill Green and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez in June to reform the city’s business privilege tax to make the city a friendlier place for small business. If the bill passes, bloggers will still have to pay to get a license if their sites are designed to make money but would no longer have to pay taxes on their first $100,000 in profits. MORE 

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