July 15, 2020 at 1:26 pm EDT | by Lynne Brown, Kevin Naff, Brian Pitts and Ebone Bell
Mendelson’s ad tax a blow to queer, Black media
ad tax, D.C. Council, Washington Blade, gay news
D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson’s proposed 3 percent tax on local advertising represents another blow to a stressed industry. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

(Editor’s note: This letter was sent this week to Council Chair Phil Mendelson, all members of the City Council and to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in response to the new city budget’s inclusion of a 3 percent tax on advertising.)

To D.C. Council members:

We write to object to Chairman Mendelson’s proposal to enact a 3 percent tax on advertising.

As local business owners, we understand as well as anyone the grave impact coronavirus is having on commerce and tax revenues and the need for the city to find new sources of revenue. But this misguided measure will only further damage the local economy by taxing businesses that are already strained. We are not aware of a tax like this on media outlets anywhere else.

An additional three percent tax on our primary source of revenue will force some outlets to lay off additional staff and others to shutter entirely. In addition, this tax will hit outlets that serve underrepresented communities much harder, including outlets that serve the LGBTQ community and communities of color. As the Informer noted in a recent editorial, “The term ‘Black Lives Matter’ applies to the Black Press that has never received its fair share of ad revenue comparable to what Black consumers spend.”

Our businesses are already stressed to the limit. All of our arts and entertainment related advertising disappeared overnight in the aftermath of coronavirus restrictions. Forcing us to pass along a 3 percent rate increase at this vulnerable time will lead to further advertising cancellations.

We know that everyone’s goal is for D.C. to flourish, however, taxing businesses that have already seen a huge decrease in revenue is not the answer.

We urge you to reconsider this measure and remove it from the city’s budget. Thank you.

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