Hey bloggers! Philly wants you to buy a license

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Philadelphia bloggers were abuzz this week about a citywide move to crack down on citizens running a business without a license -- which includes any local bloggers running ads on their sites.

The weekly Philadelphia City Paper kicked off the kerfuffle with an article spotlighting several small-scale bloggers who were startled to receive letters from the city demanding that they shell out up to $300 for a license allowing them to operate a local business. One of the recipients had raked in a whopping profit of $11 over two years from his blog.

"Personally, I don't think Circle of Fits is a business," music blogger Sean Barry told the newspaper, commenting on his minimally lucrative venture. "I don't think blogs should be taxed unless they are making an immense profit."

But in Philly, anyone "conducting commercial activity" is required to buy a business privilege license that costs $300 for a lifetime, or $50 per year. Businesses must also pay taxes on any profit they make.

That's how the Philly bloggers landed on the city's radar: Those who followed the law and reported their blog's revenue to the IRS triggered tripwires set up to find local businesses operating without licenses.

"The IRS is the fastest way to find them, though we have other avenues that we don't advertise," a Philadelphia Department of Revenue representative told CNNMoney.com.

City officials say they did not target blogs specifically, and only sites serving ads -- and therefore making money -- are subject to the business license requirements.

"Some of those blogger folks didn't realize when their passions became a business," the city rep said. "We haven't singled anybody out. We love the self-employed. Philly is a city with a creative economy."

Philadelphia isn't alone in demanding that local business operators cough up registration paperwork and fees. Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., among other major cities, also require business licenses.

An employee at the city clerk's office in Boston, where licenses cost $50 and run for four years, didn't have much familiarity with the blog licensing issue but said she "supposed" bloggers were included in the requirement.

A clerk at Washington's regulatory affairs office said bloggers should have a "general business license" that costs $324.50 for two years. But a Los Angeles official said Internet-based businesses in its jurisdiction do not require licenses.

Business licenses may be nothing new, but that didn't stop commentators from whipping a firestorm around the notion that for-profit bloggers should be required to sign up for one.

NBC's Philadelphia website accused the city of "taking a step closer to an eerie Orwellian state where creativity is crushed in the name of 'the greater good.'" Right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin blasted the city for "requiring a license for Internet activists and hobbyists to exercise their free speech."

On the other hand, the Washington Post pointed out the city was merely following the letter of the law and treating businesses equally: "Bloggers running ads next to their copy shouldn't be exempt if the requirement also applies to people selling old junk on eBay." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,164.95 -251.90 -1.45%
Nasdaq 4,635.24 -48.17 -1.03%
S&P 500 1,994.99 -26.26 -1.30%
Treasuries 1.68 -0.08 -4.34%
Data as of 6:26pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 15.15 -0.28 -1.81%
Apple Inc 117.16 -1.74 -1.46%
Microsoft Corp 40.40 -1.61 -3.83%
AT&T Inc 32.92 -0.04 -0.12%
General Electric Co 23.89 -0.19 -0.79%
Data as of Jan 30

Sections

After a terrible month for stocks, a star analyst says look to biotech, consumer and manufacturing companies. More

Many in the middle class, particularly the single and the elderly, won't see any tax breaks under Obama's MIddle Class Economics plan More

Here's where Seahawks and Patriots fans eat, shop, and play, according to data from ad tech startup PlaceIQ. More

Wix is advertising in the Super Bowl -- but it's just the latest tech unknown to make its debut there. More

401(k) balances reached a record high last year, thanks to a soaring stock market and larger contributions from workers participating in the savings plans, according to Fidelity. More

Approved - cowleys
jpepitone.scowley

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2015 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2015 and/or its affiliates.