I don't know if Philedelphia is actually unusual in having this kind of fee, or if they're just unusual in choosing to enforce it on people who don't make money. It does remind me how much the government in general hates micro businesses, though. If you don't have the kind of entrepreneurial plan that you want to gamble hundreds of thousands on (or can convince someone else to do so), governments in America would generally rather your business did not exist, and will fine/tax/regulate it accordingly.
This is not quite fair, because American governments at various level also have programs to encourage small businesses, and if you are willing to navigate a sea of endless redtape, you can possibly -- if you are lucky and belong to the kind of group that government programs like -- get more help than harm from the massive schizoid bureaucracies that rule us.
Sorry, I must be feeling excessively cynical today.
But taxes and fees (from all levels of government) are scary, scary things to me. I haven't considered them during the handful of times in the past that someone has paid me to produce a piece of artwork. Maybe I should have. I'd been thinking that my hobbies cost me far, far more than they've ever earned me, and that the IRS would regard it as a hobby and not something I needed to file for. But even if that is the attitude of the feds, what about the state? City? County?
"Hire an accountant", they told her. For her business that hadn't earned enough in two years to pay an accountant for one hour.
I've seen haikujaguar lament websites that don't have "donate" button. 'I want to support their work! Why won't they let me?'
Well. There's one answer for you. :(