Tax Prep Shock: Philly’s Business Privilege Tax

I know I should have known better.

There’s probably a million resources I could have read on starting a business in Philadelphia.

But of course I waited two weeks before tax day to discover what all the hype around Philadelphia’s Business Privilege Tax was about. And man was I in for a shock.

  1. You have to file for a “Business Privilege License” which costs you a pretty $300.
  2. Then you have to file for the Business Privilege Tax, even if you didn’t make a profit. Even if you are a tiny little start-up/side-project like mine.
  3. You have to pay two years worth of taxes at once–last year’s and this year’s in escrow. Ouch.
  4. To file online, you can only use Internet Explorer. That’s just cruel for Mac users.

The folks over at Young Philly Politics had a post about the BPT this week, part of an ongoing debate over there. I don’t understand taxes that well and I may never. I can break down a film shot by shot for you and tell you about the context of its production, but this is just not my strong suite. Not even a weak one.

But I can talk about it from an emotional/personal lay person’s experience.

I started a business.

I didn’t have the capital to start it as a full time thing with its own venue. Even though I’d love for it generate employment opportunities eventually, I’m slowly growing it over the years and for the next few it will probably remain a break-even side project at best.

Our budget is less than $10,000 a year. I now have to pay close to 10% of my business to the city. Money that doesn’t exist right now.

From my simpleton vantage point, that’s a real buzz kill on the entrepreneurial spirit.

Shouldn’t there be a threshold, like businesses with a budget less than X amount get this waived? How are small mom and pop (or artist and archivist, in my case) operations supposed to be encouraged to start up in this city?



Add yours →

  1. Hello Sara,
    I also have a local film group that screens independent and foreign films that I have been wanting to turn into a business, particularly a non-profit.

    I would love to share ideas and talk about possible future collaborations.

    Please contact me at your convenience.

    Thanks so much!


  2. Will do George! Looks interesting.

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