Billboard Companies' Fair Share

Billboard companies contribute almost nothing to our local economy, while benefiting from tax-suppported roads, transit and communities.

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

This tax is anticipated to net the city between $1.5 – 3 million a year, revenue that Scenic Pittsburgh believes should be used towards trash and dump cleanup, maintenance and stabilization of abandoned property, greenspace development, and increasing our recycling capacity. It seems only fitting that a source of visual blight – billboards – should fund a cleaner, greener Pittsburgh.

But the multi-billion dollar billboard companies who operate here have seen to it that this tax is tied up in litigation, refusing to pay their fair share for profiting from our roads and communities. 

Now that the city is up against major budget deficits as a result of the COVID pandemic, there’s even more reason to move to collect this tax. Currently the city is seeing a $44 million deficit and is expected to have to lay off up to 1/3 of the city’s police force.

As of November 4, 2019, the residents of the City of Pittsburgh have missed out on more than $13.9 million in tax revenue that could be making Pittsburgh more scenic.

Why should billboard companies pay this tax?

  • 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 and other Pennsylvania towns. In Pittsburgh, they are spending thousands of dollars to keep this tax locked up in litigation.

Lack of funding and capacity 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.