Monday, July 16, 2012
Last week I found out that I was sued by the City of Philadelphia. There was a hearing that I was not notified about, and guess what? Apparently I lost.
Okay, you may laugh. But sometimes I feel like as a small business person, we are in the crosshairs of governments more than anybody. You know why? Because when state or city or even national legislators make laws to require paperwork, they inevitably have in mind Amazon.com or Wal-Mart. They don’t ever think of the small beer writer guy who doesn’t have time or resources to file paperwork in every jurisdiction in the country.
So I got a bill from the City of Philadelphia municipal court last week for $12,073. To say I was surprised was an understatement. The letter said that they had had a hearing, without me naturally, and found that my company had not filed an income tax return with the city for seven years. With the city. Really? I live in San Antonio, TX. I've never been to Philadelphia. Why in the hell would I file an income tax return with the City of Philadelphia? It's taxation without representation. And having a court hearing without me and having some municipal judge file an arbitrary judgment against me for $12,073 -- it seems like a gross violation of civil rights. This isn't Russia after all. It feels like a mob shakedown. What's next .... will the City of Philadelphia now try to tax me for eating a Philly Cheesesteak in Texas? I say we dump a load of cheesesteaks into the San Antonio River.
Of course I was not aware that I was required to file an income tax return with the City of Philadelphia. How the hell would I even know? And there doesn't seem to be any recourse. When I call, each department refers me to another department. The municipal court refers me to the revenue collection bureau, which refers me to the court. I asked to speak to the "president judge" (whatever that means) that ordered me to pay $12k or else face further legal proceedings. I was told she would not speak to me. I am not getting answers ... I'm getting voicemails. The weather must be really good there right now, since nobody ever seems to be at their desk in Philadelphia. Government bureaucrats at their best.
But here’s the thing: What if every city in the U.S. required you to file income tax returns if you did business with somebody in the city? Everybody except huge corporations would be up to their eyeballs in paperwork and bankrupt. It’s so insane it defies explanation.
I will tell you one thing: The City of Philadelphia will not get one plug nickel from me. And I will have ask my one subscriber from Philadelphia not to renew their subscription to Beer Business Daily, because it’s not worth filing an income tax return for one customer. And I will have to put on my website that if you're from Philadelphia, you're not allowed to order a subscription. In other words, Philadelphia has lost my business. Adios Philadelphia.
And I will say this: It’s no wonder Philly is suffering the way it is and everybody is moving to places like Texas, where even the politicians would consider it utterly ridiculous to require every out-of-state vendor to file an income tax return with a city.