Saturday, November 28, 2015

Philadelphia, meet your taxes

In honor of Mayor Nutter's proposal to raise the property tax and introduce a sugary-drink tax, we looked at the wider world of taxes: What other taxes could the city raise, or introduce?

Philadelphia, meet your taxes


In honor of Mayor Nutter's proposal to raise the property tax and introduce a sugary-drink tax, we looked at the wider world of taxes: What other taxes could the city raise, or introduce?

There don't appear to be many major taxes in use by other cities that Philly doesn't already have. And under state law, the city can raise only certain taxes.

Here are the taxes you pay, how much you pay, and whether the city can make you pay more.

Type of Tax Who Pays What we Pay Now Can We Raise It?

Wage Tax

Employed people. Doesn’t matter where you work or how much you earn.

Residents: 3.298%

Non-residents: 3.4985%

No. The gaming law prevents the city from raising the wage tax.

Business Taxes

Includes the Business Privilege and Net Profits Tax

Anyone engaged in “activity for profit.” The NPT is specifically for self-employed people.

BPT:1.415 mills on Gross Receipts, 6.45% on Net Income.

NPT: Residents: 3.298%

Non-residents: 3.4985%

Yes. The city could raise the BPT.

Property Taxes

Includes Real Estate, Realty Transfer and Business Use and Occupancy Tax

People who own property, buy or sell property, or use property for commercial purposes.

Real Estate: 8.264%.
Realty Transfer: 3% (plus 1% to state)
Business Occupancy: $4.62 per $100 of assessed value.

Yes. The Real Estate tax was raised last year.

Sales Tax

People who buy stuff.

City tax: 2%
State tax: 6%

Total: 8%

No. The city would need state approval to raise this tax.

Service taxes

Includes Amusement tax, Hotel Room Rental tax, Parking tax, Vehicle Rental tax, Outdoor Advertising Tax and a couple others

People who buy specific stuff the city has decided to tax. Notice that some of these hit non-voters (like hotel and vehicle rental taxes). That’s not an accident.

Amusement tax: 5%
Hotel Room tax: 8.2%
Parking tax: 20%
Vehicle rental tax: 2%
Outdoor Advertising: 7% of purchase price

Depends on the service. The city can’t tax anything the state already taxes without state approval.

Sin taxes

Includes the Liquor Sales tax and tobacco and tobacco-related products tax.

People who buy specific stuff the city wants to discourage. These taxes have been all the rage in recent years.

Liquor: 10%
Tobacco: $0.036 per individually rolled item; $0.36 per pack of rolling papers; $0.36 per ounce other products.

Yes. It could also introduce a new sin tax, like … a sugary drink tax. Washington D.C. has a five cent tax on plastic bags.


The city has 175 of these, from electrical permits to dog licenses.

People who pay for permits or licenses.

The city collected $42.3 million from licenses and permits in 2010.

The city can add new fees, but these are only supposed to offset the cost of the service.

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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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