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Philadelphia Demands Amateur Bloggers Pay $300 for 'Business Privilege License'

cash exchangeWhen freelance writer Marilyn Bess sliced open an envelope from the city of Philadelphia last May, she probably assumed she was getting summons or jury duty. Unfortunately, though, she got a shock: the City of Brotherly Love had decided that Bess, due to ad revenues from her blog MS Philly Organic, owed her loving municipal government $300 for a "business privilege license." The problem? Since Bess started the blog nearly two years ago, it has made a grand total of $50.

"Personally, I don't think Circle of Fits is a business," said blogger Sean Barry to the Philadelphia City Paper. Barry was recently shocked to receive a similar letter, despite the fact that his own blog has garnered $11 over two years. Philadelphia, we might assume, would respond to Barry by saying, "No, it's just an unsuccessful business." In speaking with City Paper, tax attorney Michael Mandale asserted that the city government requires the $300 license of any and all outfits participating in "activity for profit" -- "whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year." The city's argument, then, would be that -- by choosing to host ads on their blogs -- Bess and Barry each started small businesses.

To Philadelphia's credit, some city councilpeople have proposed a bill that would exempt anyone without a business privilege license from paying city tax on the first $100,000 of their profits. Of course, that's not of much comfort to folks like Bess and Barry; $300 is still far more than their respective blogs' annual earnings of $25 and $5.50 a year. And we really shudder to think of how the kids down the block can squeeze three bills out of their semi-monthly carwash earnings. Beware, Philadelphians. You'll be getting rich off those yard sales and lemonade stands no more.

Tags: blog, bloggers, blogging, business, freelance, money, philadelphia, taxes, top