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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Blogger Tax That Isn't

Drudge had been running a story about "the Philadelphia blogger tax" for a few days that caught my eye. You can read a similar story HERE.

What's interesting here is how the real underlying issue has been presented by the Internet media. In point of fact Philadelphia does not have a "blogger tax". Philadelphia has what is basically a fee that every business owner has to pay for the privileged of doing business in the city. Does that fee apply specifically to bloggers? No, and in fact many cities have business privilege taxes or fees (Scranton does as well), so the concept is nothing new.

What's the "new" part? I think it's the idea that running a blog...and getting paid for a business. Note the use of the word 'and', as it's critical to the discussion. Basically what the government folks are saying is "Hey, if you run a blog and you get advertising revenue, that's basically a business. Like any other business, you have to pay this business privilege tax/fee.". Honestly, I think they are right, at least as far as consistency is concerned. Why should, for example, someone who runs a newspaper (which has content and sells advertising) have to pay a tax/fee but a blogger with ads (which has content and sells advertising) not have to pay the same tax/fee? I realize there is a de minimis argument that can be made, namely that many bloggers only earn very small amounts of revenue from their on-line endeavors. That's a fair point, but I'd argue that many businesses don't make a lot of money. Why should an on-line endeavor be treated differently?

For the record, I am not endorsing these kinds of taxes and fees. My point is one of consistency. If you are going to have this kind of tax/fee, then fairness dictates that there should be no sacred cows in the field. To hear some on the Internet, you would think that blogger is the most sacred of cows. It's not. Any dope can do this, although I'm not saying that any dope can do this well. To the extent that bloggers are upset that they need to pay the tax/fee based on, for example, the $11.20 in ad revenue they receive annually, then they should fight for a minimum revenue clause in the tax/fee legislation that would apply to all businesses.

Bottom Line: The moment a blogger begins to receive advertising revenue from their corner of cyberspace is the same moment that the blogger begins running a business. As a business person, they should be treated no better...or no worse...than anyone else running a business. If a blogger doesn't like the local business privilege tax/fee, then he/she should fight to end it (or at least add a revenue floor) for all businesses. Arguing that blogging should somehow be exempt from these types of business taxes is ridiculously arrogant.

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