Free Speech Tax – Philadelphia Looks to Stamp Act Blogs

The Stamp Act is back – in Philadelphia of all places.

Arguably the birthplace of American freedom is looking to charge blogs a $300 “business tax.”

We’ve come full circle; the city where we launched a revolution against excessive government imposition is now looking to reinstate one of the very Intolerable Acts we revolted against.

From the Philadelphia City Paper:

For the past three years, Marilyn Bess has operated MS Philly Organic, a small, low-traffic blog that features occasional posts about green living, out of her Manayunk home. Between her blog and infrequent contributions to, over the last few years she says she’s made about $50. To Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it’s a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut.

In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license.

This might make sense, except:

“The real kick in the pants is that I don’t even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous,” Bess says.

Which the City Paper recognizes:

It would be one thing if Bess’ website were, well, an actual business, or if the amount of money the city wanted didn’t outpace her earnings six-fold. Sure, the city has its rules; and yes, cash-strapped cities can’t very well ignore potential sources of income. But at the same time, there must be some room for discretion and common sense.

When Bess pressed her case to officials with the city’s now-closed tax amnesty program, she says, “I was told to hire an accountant.”

Yes, the city’s response to making this un-profit blogger’s life less Constitutionally protected and more difficult? Make it more expensive too.

The article cites other blogs that are being ridiculously dinged by the tax, and then gives us the city’s ridiculous perspective:

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.

But most blogs AREN’T a business – they are a free speech labor of love. And the key phrase here is free speech – there isn’t a cover charge to get into the Constitution.

This is a locality and not the federal government doing this – yet. Philadelphia’s looking to raise revenue by laying low the First Amendment.

Washington’s deficits and debt make Philly look austere. We must stop this now – because the feds may like what they see and soon seek to emulate it.

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