Normally, this would be a resources update post, where I would link to new service providers and other helpful sites, before making those links permanent on the rest of this site.
Today I want to make sure my fellow writers are not plying their trade illegally. That's right. You may be breaking the law without knowing it. In my city, an estimated 90 plus percent of home based businesses are operating illegally. Authors are just one small portion of that.
Earlier this month, I got an angry looking letter from the City of Fruitland. It informed me that they suspected I was running an unregistered business out of my home, based on the recent Secretary of State filing I completed for the Assumed Business Name Napping Wyvern Press. They wanted $10 and an application. I didn't think much of it, because the fee to the city for a brick and mortar business on main street in downtown Fruitland is $5. I'm not impacting anything in the real world with my writing, I upload my stories to Amazon, and sometimes they direct deposit royalties into my account. No extra traffic on my street, no customers coming to my door, nothing.
I wound up with some extra time, and went down to city hall to figure out what was going on. I sat and talked with an official, let's call him ArrDub. I'd worked up a list of client types I have in my consulting work for the college, and asked ArrDub if they were also required by law to submit applications and fees.
ArrDub verified that:
Authors, Bloggers, YouTubers, Dropshippers, Affiliate Marketers, Podcasters, Patreon Creators, Newspaper/Magazine Article Submitters, Uber/Lyft drivers, Personal Trainers, and MLM/Network Marketers were all covered under this statute. When I asked if one license covered every type of home occupation, he said no. I know for a fact there are people working up to a half a dozen MLM/Network marketing jobs. This would be an expense of $60/year that no one is paying. ArrDub said they had 1 AirBnB so far, 1 or 2 Mary Kay representatives, a Scentsy dealer. When questioned about teenage lawn mowers, babysitters, and tutors, he said he wasn't going to go there. That they should probably be paying, but he wasn't going to go there. Another interesting bit of information was who specifically was not being required to have a Home Occupation License. ArrDub told me there was a guy in town that had 10 or more LLC's that he invested different funds in for real-estate or stock investments, that the business addresses were in town, but that he was sure the guy didn't have so much as a home office that would flag the requirement as it does on everyone like authors. 10 investment LLC's and you never do anything business related at home? Sounds legit. Some authors I know don't have the money invested in their career that this guy has invested in LLC filing fees. But they are supposed to be paying while he is not.
I asked about the difference in the brick and mortar fee of $5, and the Home Occupation Registration fee of $10. Turns out that the $5 fee is a one time deal. The $10 Home Occupation license is annual. This seems a little regressive. Someone that is in a position to have a storefront is in most cases better equipped to absorb a higher annual fee. This is the case in Ontario, Oregon, right across the river. They have a $25 Business Registration, but it is just for locations that customers visit, such as a storefront. Many authors in the area are barely making any money, or are losing money due to overhead and low sales.
One explanation ArrDub gave for the cost was that they needed the licensing process to weed out the businesses that should not be in homes. One such business was a guy who was reloading ammunition in his garage, and had several 30-50lb kegs of gunpowder on site. Other examples were amateur mechanics jamming up the streets and running compressors at all hours of the night in quiet neighborhoods. Those are the businesses the ordinance is there to help stop. Businesses that are not in the correct zones are possible, so everyone should pay. To my mind, that is a bit like saying murderers and rapists exist, so everyone should spend a little time in prison.
I asked if ArrDub would estimate that 90-95% of the home based businesses in the city of Fruitland were not in compliance, and were operating illegally. He said he was sure of it. The only people that are paying in the 5 or so years since the ordinance was enacted are the folks who file with the SOS, or sole proprietors who have no ABN that get ratted out by neighbors.
Here is where it took a lot of self control not to laugh, or yell. I told ArrDub that I had some clients that work in web development. That I could check with them and see if they could come up with a program that could crawl around the web and index websites with local IP addresses, double check them against existing businesses, and if they were not registered, dump them into a database that they could use to track these lawbreakers down. He asked, albeit a little sheepishly, how much I thought something like that would run. He backtracked pretty quick, laughing and saying that he didn't think a software developer would be comfortable being associated with something like that. My question, ArrDub, is why are you comfortable with it?
Regardless of my opinion of the law, it is indeed the law. I paid my $10. I don't want any trouble. This post is to make my fellow entrepreneurs aware that even if all the surrounding counties and towns don't have ordinances that require you pay a fee to do whatever you are doing, check with city hall. You may be breaking the law. If you think you are, here is the link to the application you will(or won't) want to fill out and remit to city hall. My fondest hope is that my application is rejected and the folks at city hall tell me I can no longer write.
The wife said I needed to run for office to clear up this type of foolishness. I politely declined.