Monday, July 14, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The BPT rears its ugly head ... toward bloggers

I was amused, in a dark sort of way, to see this City Paper article about the city taxing bloggers. To be clear, Philly doesn't have some new blogger tax; rather, it's making sure that bloggers who pull in miniscule amounts of revenue pay the city Business Privilege Tax -- including a one-time $300 licensing fee.

The BPT rears its ugly head ... toward bloggers

I was amused, in a dark sort of way, to see this City Paper article about the city taxing bloggers. To be clear, Philly doesn't have some new blogger tax; rather, it's making sure that bloggers who pull in miniscule amounts of revenue pay the city Business Privilege Tax -- including a one-time $300 licensing fee.

I was amused because I've been through the shock some of the bloggers featured in the CP article are experiencing. I wasn't a blogger, at the time, but a freelancer. I'd made less than $1,000 over the course of a year, and thought I must have been misunderstanding something when the city told me I had to pay the start-up fee ($250 at the time) plus the tax to make my "business" legit. Most astoundingly, the city explained that I'd need to pay $250 even if I earned less than $250.

The tax technically applies if you're a small-time freelancer, a baby-sitter, a lemonade stand ... or a small-time blogger who, like one of the subjects of the CP story, earned $11. As long as there's some revenue coming in, you're subject, and bloggers are just a relatively new category of small-time earners (although I'm surprised this hasn't come up before).

Some commenters on the CP site have called this an attack on speech, but as Jeff Billman explains, it's not, really -- the city isn't taxing the bloggers for blogging, but for making money off the blogging. The ridiculousness here is that there's no floor for eligibility for the tax.

Note to anyone dealing with this BPT issue: Keep up with your BPT filings every year, or the city may "close" your "business," and that's a whole other nightmare.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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