The curse of freelance

In which I write a nasty letter to San Diego’s Office of Small Business after they absurdly demanded back taxes and fees for my tiny amount of freelance writing income…

Dear Meredith Dibden Brown:

Yesterday, I received a letter from you (at the Office of Small Business) informing me that I had to register my “business” with the City of San Diego, pay a $34 yearly fee to be registered with the City, pay an unexplained $17 fee for “zoning,” and pay $250.84 in late fees for not having registered for the three years previously. I am writing to complain about the City’s unethical behavior and to demand that all late fees be removed from my bill.

As ridiculous as it is that I have to pay $34 so that I may be allowed to earn a couple thousand dollars a year as a freelance writer and editor – yes, I’m taxed before I even earn a dime — I understand that the City’s coffers are empty after decades of incompetence and mismanagement, and someone has to pay! Why not force the victims of said incompetence and mismanagement?

That said, never informing self-employed residents that they had to register with the City and then using that lack of knowledge as way to force them to accrue late fees for three years is a gross abuse of taxation power. It is unethical and unconscionable.

I have lived in San Diego for nearly four years. I have paid my California taxes every year. I have declared myself as self-employed each year. When I called your office and asked why I was only informed now that I was supposed to register in 2006, I was told it was because the City only bothered to look for the information now. So, I am paying $250.84 because the City could not be bothered to ask the State who was declaring themselves self-employed and then to cross-reference those names with the City’s registry and then to inform those un-registered persons in a timely fashion that they owed registration fees. I am paying late fees because the City is incompetent in its collection of taxes.

Speaking of incompetence, the letter that you sent to me claims that San Diego Municipal Code §31.0110 “requires all business within its City limits to obtain a Business Tax Certificate.” This is not true. §31.0110 defines the terms of the code concerning Business Taxes. §31.0121 is the section of the code that “requires all business within its City limits to obtain a Business Tax Certificate.”

I would appreciate your swift response.


Theodore K. Gideonse

Councilmember Sherri Lightner
Mayor Jerry Sanders
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith

UPDATE: This blog post was twittered by none other than the local government editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune. He referenced Carl DeMaio’s opposition to the way the City is dealing with the tax, so I forwarded my letter to DeMaio. DeMaio wrote back within a couple days to say that he was hoping to create an amnesty program or make really small businesses, like mine, exempt. And: “You shouldn’t be fined for not knowing you need to register.” Lightner’s assistant wrote back to say they were looking into it.

I finally received an email back from the Office of Small Business last week. It was, to say the least, defensive. Here it is in its entirety:

Dear Mr. Gideonse:

Thank you for contacting the Office of the City Treasurer.

Section 31.0135 of the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC) states:

The City Treasurer is not required to send a notice or bill to any person subject to the provisions of this Article, and the failure to send such notice or bill shall not affect the validity of any fee or penalty due hereunder, or the duty of such person to pay required taxes.

Hence, it is the business owner’s/independent contractor’s responsibility to register with the Office of the City Treasurer prior to commencing business. Since the Business Tax assessment is a self-reporting tax, the City is not required to send notification to new businesses stating the tax is due. However, the City does provide business owners helpful information pertaining to the Business Tax application process. This information is available at the Office of the City Treasurer downtown, the six Community Service Centers located throughout the City, and the Office of Small Business which offers business start-up seminars, including information regarding the Business Tax certification process. In addition, IRS instructions to the Schedule C inform taxpayers of the potential tax liability. The fourth paragraph of the Schedule C instructions (see attachment) state: You may be subject to state and local taxes and other requirements such as business licenses and fees. Check with your state and local governments for more information.

Section 31.0131 of the SDMC also states the City can bill retroactively for up to three years with penalties for each year that the business was in operation. In addition to the penalties for delinquent payment, all small businesses (12 employees or less) that do not register or pay their taxes pay a non-compliance surcharge of $68.00, while large businesses (13 or more employees) pay $250.00. Note: Your account was not assessed the $68.00 surcharge.

All that considered, in order to more accurately assess whether you have a tax liability with the City, please address the following questions.

1. For how long have you been filing Form Schedule C – Profit or Loss From Business? Please specify year.

2. How often do you perform these freelance writing services within the City of San Diego on an annual basis? Please specify the average number of hours accrued annually?

3. Will you be filing Form Schedule C for the 2008 & 2009 tax years to report similar activities performed within the city limits of San Diego?

I look forward to your reply so I may assist you further.


John R. Zurita
Business Tax Compliance Supervisor
Office of the City Treasurer
The City of San Diego
(619) 615-1516 (Phone)
(619) 533-3274 (Fax)

There are so many problems with Zurita’s letter, most glaring being its “you don’t know what you’re talking about, you stupid taxpayer” tone. This is how I responded:

Dear Mr. Zurita,

Thank you for your email.

As my email clearly shows, I have read the municipal code. I am well aware that your office did not break the law. But your reliance on the vague fine print of the Schedule C form is a rather disingenuous way of claiming that we were told of the law when we were clearly not. I have also read Lambert v. California, 355 U.S. 225 (1957), and your office should, too, since it states that punishing someone for the lack of knowledge of a municipal law for which knowledge of cannot reasonably be expected is a violation of the 14th Amendment. [Thanks, Jeff! –Ed.]

If your office actually wanted taxpayers to know about the law, it would have made sure that California tax forms clearly stated the law and it would have made sure that tax preparation software programs all collected the tax. But it did not. And the most popular, TurboTax, which I use, is made by a San Diego company, Intuit!

The law is written in such a way, and it is enforced in such a way, as to create the nonpayment of taxes in order for late fees to be accrued. So, I stand by my assertion that the tax collection behavior of your office is unethical and an abuse of taxation power.

That said, here are my answers to your questions:

1. For how long have you been filing Form Schedule C – Profit or Loss From Business? Please specify year.

I have been filing a Schedule C since 1997.

2. How often do you perform these freelance writing services within the City of San Diego on an annual basis? Please specify the average number of hours accrued annually?

Since I moved to San Diego, I have never spent more than 20 to 30 hours a year writing, editing, or teaching writing on a freelance basis. I am a full-time graduate student, and rarely make more than $20,000 a year. The only year that I made a profit from my 1099s was 2006, when I received $xxx in royalties for work done in previous years. For that year, my net profit was $xxx. In 2007, my net loss was $xxx. In 2008, my net loss was $xxx.

3. Will you be filing Form Schedule C for the 2008 & 2009 tax years to report similar activities performed within the city limits of San Diego?



Ted Gideonse

I do not expect the City to voluntarily do the right thing. I can only hope that DeMaio is able to change the policy.

UPDATE #2: I win! I win!

Dear Mr. Gideonse:

Based on the information you have provided, you do not have a tax liability with the City. Since you have stated that you have never spent more than 20-30 hours per year providing these services, you qualified for an exemption under SDMC § 31.0202 (Exceptions — Limited Duration Activities). Therefore, we have canceled Notice Number – B2009006659.

In an effort to increase Business Tax Compliance, the City of San Diego recently began utilizing data from the State Franchise Tax Board (FTB). The City presumes that a taxpayer is conducting business within its jurisdiction if the taxpayer filed a business return/form with the Franchise Tax Board and or Internal Revenue Service using a City of San Diego address. This data is an effective means for tax enforcement and is used by a majority of California municipalities. However, there are situations that arise where an income tax filer does not qualify as a business.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the receipt of the Notice of Tax Liability billing statement.

Should you have further questions, please feel free to contact me.


John R. Zurita

And by the way, he cc-ed the email to Lightner’s assistant. Ha.

Kirk Cameron, from teen idol to borned-again gay basher

Note: This post was originally written for my previous blog, back when I was much less concerned with how I might be perceived by people who might have power over me. I was very angry when I wrote it, and responded to its critics with condescension and sarcasm. Profanity aside, I stand by the gist of the post and my comments; I still believe Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort miss the entire point of Christianity. That said, I did some editing before reposting it here.

Kirk Cameron is the Devil

God, I hate Kirk Cameron. Sweet Jesus, I hate Kirk Cameron. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I hate Kirk Cameron. Jesus Christ on a crutch, I hate Kirk Cameron. (By the way, what up with the “Jesus Christ on a crutch” — why isn’t it Jesus Christ on the cross, on a crux, on a Roman soldier’s sword? Hmm.) According to Mike Seaver, I am going to hell, not only for all of that blasphemous, taking the Lord’s name stuff I just wrote, but especially because I like the man-sex.

(By the way, is the commandment against taking the Lord’s name in vain the stupidest one? Or is it the one about envy? I can’t decide. Envy is an involuntary response to noticing you have less than someone else and then wanting more. The people who say they aren’t envious of another person are liars. And by saying “God,” how am I taking the Lord’s name in vain? God is not his name, you dipshits. It’s Yahweh, or something like that. Also, what does swearing have to do with being a good person? Nothing. But the Bible, a series of short stories and shaggy-dog jokes written by psychological suspect cultists several thousands of years ago, says, depending on the translation, that I’m going to Hell for saying, “Sweet Jesus!” Dude, I get the thou-shalt-not-kill shit, but swearing means nothing. Read Saussure.)

I found out that Kirk had gone the way of the brainwashed when I saw some E! where-are-they-now show a few years ago. Wait! you say. Who the Hell is Kirk Cameron? you ask. He was the Michael J. Fox wannabe on the “Family Ties” wannabe, “Growing Pains,” in the late 80s. He was super cute. Actually, he still is, in a Joe Pitt sorta way. Anyway, Kirk was borned again (as I like to say it) some time after his fame went all CoreyFeldmanCoreyHaimLeifGarrettRalphMacchio on him. Gee, down and depressed, looking for meaning? Try brainwashing! Suddenly failure is irrelevant! All you need to worry about is waiting for Judgment Day and ruining the lives of gay people!

Anyway. Anyway. Anyway. I thought he was keeping it to himself, or at least keeping it to acting is those bad movies based on the Left Behind books.

But nooooooo.

He and this little irritating Kiwi who looks like a cross between Davy Jones and Sonny Bono, Ray Comfort, have a borned again TV show (video series, website, cereal, chewing gum, toothpaste, etc.) called “The Way of the Master”. (The wiki-version is here.) The idea is that they go around and “talk to people about Christianity.” Actually, they go around and ask people whether or not they’ve taken the Lord’s name in vain, stolen anything, or done any ass-fucking. And they tell them they’re going to Hell. It’s fun for the whole family–except your gay uncle!

Last night, Rob and I were in bed–in our homosexual love den where we blurt out “Jesus Christ!” when the cats wake us up, where we envy people who don’t have to wake up and feed their cats at 5am every morning, and where we drink the blood of babies after we’ve sodomized them–flipping through the channels and we came across the episode of “The Way of the Master” where Kirk and Ray get all Biblical on the fags. Lucky us!

They spent a lot of time quoting the Bible, rolling passages up and down the screen, kind of like FBI warning on videos. Now, I’m not “religious,” but even I knew that the passages they were quoting were rather specious translations. As in Hitler’s translations. The most glaring? The four or five passages that had the word “homosexuals” in them. Considering that neither the word nor the idea existed until the end of the 19th century, you gotta wonder what was really being referred to. But rocks-for-brains “Christians” like Kirk and Roy aren’t worried about translations and what the psychological suspect cultists who wrote the Bible really meant. They just want you to go to Hell. Hell! Hell! Hell!

At one point, Kirk and Ray are driving down the highway in a convertible–What would Jesus drive?–and they are discussing strategies for dealing with their “homosexual friends and family members,” as if they have any gay friends or any gay family members who would be willing talk to them. The strategies come right out of How to Win Friends and Influence People. “Don’t go up to them and tell them that God hates homosexuals and they’re going to Hell, because then they’ll just get defensive. Instead, say, ‘I’m really worried about your eternal soul because the Bible says that what you’re doing isn’t right.’ Let them know how worried you are and then they’ll think about what they’re doing.” Well, now that I know Kirk’s strategy, I’ll be prepared!

Then Roy takes to the streets and interviews some queers. One was a very smart, articulate gay Catholic. He was one of those I-practice-but-the-Catholic-Church-is-whacked folks who impress me. They stay even though they get beaten up every Sunday. Anyway, he smiled and answered Roy’s insipid, insulting questions, and said that he was a good person who would be judged for who he was not whether or not he followed the Bible word-for-word. Then Roy quizzed a 50something transsexual, who had taken the Lord’s name in vain and lied about his gender, and Roy told him he was going to Hell. That’s when I had to turn off the TV. It was worse than the gay-bashing on “American Idol.” Well, maybe not worse. About that same.

I was pissed as I was trying to get to sleep. Kirk. Kirk. Kirk. Why don’t you do something constructive? Like building houses for Katrina victims. Like helping Bono get cheap HIV drugs to developing nations. Like working towards peace, arms reduction, and fair economic policy. Oh, what’s that? Oh, right, I guess it is more important to ruin the lives of good people than the help the poor and sick live longer, better lives.

Kirk Cameron = EVIL.