Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taxes for Blogs? In Exchange for What?

The Tax Foundation reports:

After dutifully reporting even the smallest profits on their tax filings this year, a number - though no one knows exactly what that number is - of Philadelphia bloggers were dispatched letters informing them that they owe $300 for a [lifetime] privilege license [or $50 per year for an annual license], plus taxes on any profits they made.

Even if, as with Sean Barry, that profit is $11 over two years.[...]

Even though small-time bloggers aren't exactly raking in the dough, the city requires privilege licenses for any business engaged in any "activity for profit," says tax attorney Michael Mandale of Center City law firm Mandale Kaufmann. This applies "whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year," he adds.

So even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there's the potential for it to be lucrative - and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising - the city thinks you should cut it a check. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads - regardless of how much or little money is actually generated - qualifies a blog as a business.

Two thoughts:

1) Usually, there is some kind of service-based justification for a business license fee (they require police protection, infrastructure, etc).* I see no argument for a quid pro quo here, this is just a stick-up. Am I missing something?

2) I would love to have access to the internal dialogue that went into deciding on blogging fees of $300/lifetime or $50/year. My guess is that it would follow the pure sellers problem (aka revenue maximization).

*You can argue that bloggers should report their blogging income, without getting into the quid pro quo issue, as that is the norm. The issue is making them pay for the license in addition to taxing blogger income.


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Anonymous said...

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