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.
Most of the commentary I’ve seen focuses on discretion in applying the law. I can sympathize with that point because it’s what we call “common sense.” And the impact will be felt here in the blogosphere. Wyatt says he’ll quit blogging if they come after him, and but all he’s got is a tip jar. I find his True Detective Stories to be a real eye-opener in the law enforcement world. (I assume most officers are brilliant like Wyatt, but it’s always good to be reminded that there are a significant number who are not. We’ll just leave it at that before I get into too much trouble.) I would consider the loss of his blog a real loss in the realm of serious public discussions, even if the True Detective Stories just want to make beat your head against your desk. (We live in the suburbs. Suck it, Philly.)
The good news is that the original story (and not the abbreviated/quoted Examiner piece that’s been linked everywhere) highlights one potential correction that’s not just a matter of relying on bureaucrats to use a little common sense when they try to open your wallet & take their “fair share.”
But bloggers aren’t the only ones upset with the city’s tax structure. In June, City Council members Bill Green and Maria QuiÃ±ones-SÃ¡nchez unveiled a proposal to reform the city’s business privilege tax in an effort to make Philly a more attractive place for small businesses. If their bill passes, bloggers will still have to get a privilege license if their sites are designed to make money, but they would no longer have to pay taxes on their first $100,000 in profit. (If bloggers don’t want to fork over $300 for a lifetime license, Green suggests they take the city’s $50-a-year plan.)
Their bill will be officially introduced in September.
The paper rightly points out that it doesn’t fix the business license requirement, and it still may mean they would have to pay more in taxes than they earn if they aren’t a large site. That’s a legit concern, but just like most things, fixes will come a step at a time.
The other good news is that this was a Drudge headline for a while, so it should drum up enough anger around the country to shame Philadelphia bureaucrats into behaving like reasonable adults for the time being. But, for any bloggers looking to escape, there are some lovely houses for sale in our suburban neighborhood.