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Don’t get on the ‘tobacco black list’

The deadline is today for 25,000-plus small businesses to report whether they should be taxed for tobacco.<br />

Say you own or operate a business in Philadelphia that doesn’t sell tobacco or tobacco-related products. If your city business-privilege tax file listed you as “miscellaneous,” you probably got one of more than 25,000 unexpected late-August letters stating: “Philadelphia Department of Revenue records indicate that your business may sell tobacco and/or tobacco-related products.”

You’d best get to the post office before closing today or you’ll miss the deadline and, according to the letter, “failure to complete and return this form will result in a [tobacco-tax] account being created for your business.”

“We cast a wide net. The good thing is that now people are calling in with the correct information for their businesses. The more information we get, the better,” said Revenue chief Keith Richardson.

Among those who received a letter was tax-reform activist Brett Mandel. He doesn’t sell tobacco, so he told Metro he “originally wanted to throw it away.” Then, a friend in the Revenue Department told him he’d land on the tobacco list for doing that, which Richardson confirmed yesterday.

“If you owe, you should be paying, but this is just ridiculous. It just shows you how tone deaf they are,” Mandel said. “I’d like to say it’s shocking, but it’s not.”

 
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