Philadelphia is like a zoo with a menagerie of taxes, licenses, and fees.
We have on display fearsome birds of prey, slithery reptiles, woolly mammoths, and an assortment of chilling bloodsuckers.
In our zoo, there’s always something new under the sun. The previous mayor, Michael Nutter, birthed a massive tobacco tax, and Mayor Kenney invented a crushing beverage tax. They walked in the footsteps of earlier zookeepers who beat the tall grass for revenue.
The zoo — er, I mean, city — has close to 200 taxes, licenses, and fees. They’re wide-reaching and creative (and I thank the mayor’s press office for helping me assemble the list).
I first did this list in 2012. Since then, some of these animals — I mean amounts — have been beefed up, a few have gotten skinnier, and some are extinct, such as required licenses for dry cleaners and recyclers. The “business privilege tax” was dropped, but returned as the Business Income and Receipts Tax — a double whammy: 1.415 mills on gross receipts and 6.35 percent on taxable net income.
The biggest beast is the wage tax, at 3.8809 percent for Philadelphians and 3.4567 percent for nonresidents who have the pleasure of working within the city limits. The tax is even levied on out-of-town athletes who earn a paycheck in South Philly at the Linc, the Bank, or the Center.
Lucky residents who pay the wage tax must come up with an additional 3.8809 for a school tax on “unearned income,” such as rent or royalties, and investment dividends.
Another giant wallop is the 3.278 percent real estate transfer tax (plus 1 percent that goes to the state) that you pay for the privilege of selling your home. Don’t forget the 1.3998 percent real estate tax on assessed value that you pay each year.
In Philadelphia, if you park your car in a lot, on top of the outrageous cost of parking the city tacks on a 22.5 percent tax, up from 20 percent in 2012. At the theater, you pay a 5 percent amusement tax on your ticket. The city tried taxing lap dances at strip clubs a few years back. I told you they were creative, but they lost that fight.
You pay 2 percent on a car rental and 8.5 percent is added to the cost of your hotel room. If you live in a high-rise, you get charged $.01 per square foot. Why? Because they can. Have a vacant lot? Fork over $160, down from $300 in 2012. A family child-care license is $50, and the city charges 1.21 percent on the assessed value of any property used for business.
Want to run a carnival? Pay $200 a week. Pawnbrokers pay $500 (up from $200 in 2012), and there’s a $50 fee (up from $30) if you distribute handbills. The city levies a residential storm water charge for rain that falls from the sky onto your property; that comes to about $12 per month.
A sidewalk cafe license costs $160, while a newsstand license is $300. Selling by foot, pushcart, or car will cost you $330. Scales are taxed, electronic scanners are taxed, promoters are taxed, dumpsters are taxed, outdoor billboards are taxed, bingo, water meters, tour guides …
The zoo is a wondrous place. Call it Taxadelphia.
By the way, a gun permit here is a modest $20, a license for an unaltered dog is $40, a marriage license is $90.
I know because I’ve had to pay all three.
I never regretted what I spent on my gun or my dog.