Philadelphia wants bloggers to start paying taxes

Those who make money with their writing better get out their checkbooks

If you're a blogger in the city of Philadelphia, get out your checkbook.

Just like everyone else, Philadelphia is struggling to get through the tough economy, and city officials want bloggers to do their fair share and pay up.

There's no specific blogger tax, as some media outlets reported today. But the city does have a business tax that covers any Philadelphia-based bloggers who are now making any money from their online efforts.

Maura Kennedy, a spokesperson for the city, told Computerworld that officials want money-making bloggers to register their business and start paying the tax.

"It's a business privilege tax, just like for any business in the city, whether you're selling widgets or writing a blog that brings in any kind of revenue," said Kennedy. "It's not anything about bloggers or the Internet. If you run any kind of blog in the city of Philadelphia, then you owe taxes."

She noted that anyone writing a blog purely for fun is not considered a business and wouldn't have to pay a tax.

Kennedy, though, would not say how long the city has gone after bloggers as taxpayers.

"It's a bad economy," she said. "We need any business in Philadelphia to step up and pay taxes.... Whether or not it's a brick-and-mortar business doesn't matter."

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said it's a risky proposition to take on a rather small but incredibly vocal group.

"Mindlessly levying fees and taxes like this on micro-businesses is exactly the wrong way to raise revenue and encourage economic development," he added. "By focusing on bloggers, they've picked the one group that is guaranteed to make a public stink about it in ways that, for example, high school kids mowing lawns couldn't. One has to wonder what the next step is here. Will these bloggers now be required to have standard business insurance or workplace inspections?"

Kennedy said that the responsibility to sign up as a business lies with the blogger. But the city will be seeking out paid bloggers who haven't signed up.

"I'm sure we'll be using enforcement tools," she added. "We're taking this very seriously. Everyone needs to do their part and pay taxes. Everyone needs to do their fair share."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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