What’s the Deal with the Billboard Tax?

In the midst of a budget shortfall, Pittsburgh is missing out on collecting tens of millions in tax revenue.

Back on November 27, 2012, the Pittsburgh City Council passed a 10% levy on revenue generated by billboards within city limits.

Learn more about Billboard Companies’ Fair Share

The tax was supposed to net the city between $1.5 – 3 million a year – and it’s estimated that the city would have collected more than $12-20 million as of this year.

But despite passing City Council easily, the tax has never been collected. The billboard companies have kept the tax tied up in court for the last 8 years.

Read the Post-Gazette article about the failure to collect the Billboard Tax.

Scenic Pittsburgh was one of the biggest advocates for the billboard tax and we’ve been fighting to see it collected since it was passed. We believe that some of these funds should be dedicated to trash and dump cleanup, maintenance and stabilization of abandoned property, greenspace development, and increasing our recycling capacity, and we’ve created a proposal specifically for that purpose.

We feel strongly that this legislation is a model that could be followed by every county in our 10-county region, and something that could supply needed revenue for programs that preserve and promote scenic resources.

Sign our petition supporting the collection of Pittsburgh’s billboard tax and the use of revenue to make Pittsburgh the cleanest city in the U.S.

Why should billboard companies pay this tax?

The billboard business isn’t like your locally-owned store – it’s not even like most nationally owned chains. It’s a business that makes its profit from everything you pay taxes to support, while contributing next to nothing in return.

  • The most profitable billboards take in hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, but national advertising corporations pay significantly less in property taxes than you do for your home – often a few pennies on the dollar compared to homeowner tax rates. 
  • Although billboards operate in the city, they continue to pay NO business tax because billboards are not considered a business, even if the billboard company clears millions in profit.
  • We, the taxpayers, heavily subsidize billboard profits. Our tax dollars are used to build and maintain the busy roads and the communities on which the billboard companies depend for their profit. We get nothing back except eyesores that lower property values for our homes and businesses.
  • Lamar and other big billboard companies already pay a similar tax in Philadelphia that contributes more than $3 million a year to their revenue.

Scenic Pittsburgh continues to advocate for the collection of the billboard tax. Lack of funding is often cited as the reason why Pittsburgh cannot move ahead on clean, green initiatives. The Billboard Tax could comfortably fund many of those initiatives. All it would take is for the billboard companies to drop their litigation and settle with the city to pay their fair share.

If you live in the City of Pittsburgh and want to see this tax collected, ask your city councilperson about the billboard tax and say you support collecting it, especially now that the City has such a shortfall. Spread the word that this solution exists for some of the City’s cash woes, and that the billboard companies need to come to the table and pay their fair share. We’re determined that it will not be ANOTHER 8 years before our city sees revenue from the billboard tax!