Let's Talk Money or Why There Are No Writers In Philadelphia

Posted by Lisa L. on Monday, August 20, 2012

I live in Philadelphia.  And when I say that, I mean I actually live IN Philadelphia.  I don't live in one of these suburban towns an hour outside the city and call myself a Philadelphian.  (Ahem:  Bradley Cooper:  Jenkintown; Pink:  Doylestown.  NOT Philly, people.  NOT Philly.)

Stuck in traffic on the way home from a Phillies game!

I love this city.  One day I'll probably move out of it because let's face it, the crime rate ain't exactly going down, but I love it.  I grew up here, the product of two large, Irish Catholic families whose roots in my neighborhood run deep.  I went to a neighborhood Catholic school which has since shut down.  I didn't go to high school here but I returned afterward, and I went to Community College here.  I transferred upstate to finish college but I returned again and met my husband, who grew up literally seven or eight blocks away from where I grew up. 

This City is far from perfect.  The crime rate is staggering.  I mean there are actually entire countries-really big ones-whose crime rates don't even come close to that of Philadelphia.  It's kind of dirty.  I mean I've been in much cleaner, more well-kept cities than this one.  There are areas of this city that would turn your hair gray instantaneously.  I don't think it's any coincidence that the words people most often use to describe my writing are exactly the words you could use to describe this city:  dark and gritty.  This city is what it is and it makes no apologies for that. 

On the other hand, I know a lot of truly amazing people who were born and raised here.  Plus we've got cheesesteaks (and no, not Geno's or Pat's.  If you want a real cheesesteak, you visit a neighborhood corner steak shop like a real Philadelphian.  Barry's and Chubby's all the way, baby).  We've got historical sites and theaters and the Franklin Institute and the Please Touch Museum.  We say "wooder" instead of water.  Oh and we've got phanatical sports fans.  And we get to spell lots of words that start with an f with a PH.  We've also got Ben Franklin.  I say that in the present tense cause there is actually a dude who walks around Center City dressed as Ben Franklin.  Spitting image.  I think the mere fact that we had the actual Ben Franklin ought to carry us a long way cause that guy was brilliant.  Oh, and the Liberty Bell!

Okay, so that's not the actual Liberty Bell, that's the one at Citizens Bank Park!

What does any of this have to do with my book?

As you know, my book comes out in December, but it will be quite awhile after that until I actually see any royalties.  (I hope I see royalties!)  I ran into my accountant the other day and I mentioned to him that my first novel would come out December 6, 2012.  He seemed very interested.  A discussion about genres and John Sandford novels ensued.  Then he said that the first thing I'll need to do is get a Business Privilege License. 

A what?

Yes, a business privilege license.  After speaking briefly with my accountant, I went online and did more research.  Turns out that because I live in the lovely City of Philadelphia--like actually IN it--and might possibly make money from the book I wrote, I am subject to Business Privilege taxes, even though I am not a business. 

From what I understand the license costs $300 for a lifetime fee or $50 a year.  Although many sites I went on said it was $350 for a "lifetime" fee and then $50 a year thereafter, which kind of defeats the purpose of a "lifetime" anything, if you ask me.  I also read in a few places that it is actually $300 a year for the first two years and that they ask you to pay two years up front, plus a $50 annual fee thereafter, so I might have to pay $700 at the end of this year (again, seems to defeat the idea of a "lifetime" fee but it wouldn't be Philly without a buttload of confusion).  Without delving too far into the Philadelphia Tax Code, which might as well be in a foreign language to me, I just figure on paying at least $350 this year to have my book published while living in this city, which is what my accountant suggested.  Figuring out precisely how much to pay and when--well, that's why I have an accountant.  Regardless, a BPL is not something that had even remotely occurred to me.

That's not all.  From what I've read, the City of Philadelphia will take 6.45% of anything I make as a writer. 

If I don't pay these taxes, the penalties and fees will be astronomical--or so I've read.  In fact, a few things that I've read say that even if you didn't live in Philadelphia but you came here to do a book signing and were compensated in any way, even if it was just for one day, you would have to buy a business privilege license and pay the business privilege taxes on what you made while you were here.  Don't believe me?  Read this Forbes article. 

That would explain why half of the concerts that go on in this area are over the damn bridge in New Jersey (she says resentfully!)

That's Camden, Philadelphia's lesser known but equally violent cousin

Anyway, I only bring this up because it really had never occurred to me that I might have to pay extra taxes or fees just to be a writer and live in Philadelphia.  So if you've got a book coming out, you might want to check out the laws and tax codes where you live to make sure you're not missing anything!

This is why Lisa Scottoline lives just outside of Philadelphia in a neighboring county!

Tags: money  philadelphia 

About Me

Lisa Regan I am the author of Finding Claire Fletcher, Losing Leah Holloway, Kill For You, Hold Still, Cold-Blooded and the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling Detective Josie Quinn series (Vanishing Girls, The Girl With No Name, Her Mother's Grave). You can email me directly at



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