The Lemonade Stand Crackdown: Has It Gone Too Far?

The Lemonade Stand Crackdown: Has It Gone Too Far?
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Sour Lemons

Screenshot Google Map on Lemonade Stand Shut DownsOn August 20 2011, kids, families, mom, dads, community members and even grandparents will stand up and fight by joining together in a national event—Lemonade Freedom Day. Some cities and towns across America are saying selling lemonade is not legal and to fight back, Lemonade Freedom Day invites everyone, everywhere to open up a stand and start selling this favorite summer drink.

So, why all the fuss about this age-old ways for kids to earn some extra dough?

Take a look at the Google map to the left (click to enlarge) and you’ll find out quickly how many towns are saying lemonade stands are illegal without the proper proprietor’s license—and some are arguing kids need to pay sales tax and, if they earn over $400 during one summer, they better report that income to Uncle Sam.

The Google map reveals a sorry sight—the green balloons are places where kids are free to set up and sell their lemonade. The red markers are absolute no-no’s where stands have been shut down and the yellow markers mean your kids better get a city permit before they mix lemons, water and sugar together to make some extra cash—pennies really.

According to the website Lemonade Freedom, selling lemonade is not a crime, but in some localities it is now illegal unless kids pay for the right to sell. I wonder if they make kid-sized handcuffs.

The Death of the Young Entrepreneurial Spirit

Government GreedFor decades, in front yards everywhere, kids have garnished the entrepreneurial spirit by opening up these refreshment stands.

Kids learn a lot with this little biz—they learn how to make a product, sell the product, collect money and even offer change. But now this learning aid is in jeopardy.

Ridiculous? You bet. You’ll find online protests everywhere, even on Forbes where one contributor, Tim Worstall, is urging Americans to join in on Lemonade Freedom Day—and he’s not even from America. Albeit, he remains stymied by the thought of killing these venues that teach our youth so much and I agree.

Apparently selling lemonade is a business to some governments, and that means applying for permits or licenses and paying the appropriate sales tax. Sure, one could argue if an adult had a cart, made their own lemonade and traveled city streets selling, they should pay taxes and get a license, but children’s lemonade stands? Come on here folks—this is way out of hand.

Idiotic rules always pop up now and again, or old ludicrous laws are enforced (like you can’t run a sweeper on Sunday in Wheeling, West Virginia). But the no-lemonade stand for kids has gone a little too far.

Government Greed

No Lemonade for SaleThe fight to protect these stands is so severe, the Lemonade Freedom web page (you can join them on Facebook too) offers ideas on what to do if the authorities show up. Take pictures or videos, document the events of the closure, and never cuss or become hostile. While these are good ideas, why is the need to provide them even necessary? These are kids’ lemonade stands, people!

I’ll tell you my opinion—it’s greed folks, pure and simple. Sales taxes are paid to counties and there are fees for those thin pieces of paper permits offering you rights to sell wares on the street. And to think, kids everywhere are ripping off their own towns by skipping the permit and avoiding the taxation form to report profits and pay taxes! Shame on them.

I actually find the whole dilemma ridiculous, but there are those who will most likely argue (nasty politicians) that even kids are required to adhere to rules—even when selling lemonade.

A lemonade timeline offered by the Freedom Center of Missouri, shows some scary statistics. In August in Coralville, Iowa, kids were shut down for no permit and no health inspection. In July in McAllen, Texas, a grandmother was fined fifty bucks for failure to obtain a food permit (is there food in lemonade?). Also in July in Midway, Georgia, kids were again denied the right to sell on their own lawns if a peddler’s license and a food license weren’t obtained, and they were forced to pay a $50 per day for a temporary business license.

The lemonade debacle is not as new as one may think either. In August of 2010, Oregon health inspectors told a seven year old girl to shut down or pay $120 for a must-have license. The list goes on and on. It’s sad really, and if all that doesn’t surprise you, maybe this will.

As far back as 1990 in Ojai California, a thirteen year old kid’s drink stand was shut down until he obtained necessary licenses and permits. He did so and then promptly turned on his fellow competitors by calling the city to report their lack of licenses—the art of the deal at an age where kids should enjoy just being kids.

Chump Change

Fight for Lemonade StandsIn my childhood, I can’t recall how many times my friends and I earned what my parents called “chump change” selling lemonade. Actually we drank more of our product than we sold. Almost everyone at one time or another as a child either started their own lemonade venue or joined in the fun with the kids on the block.

Is denying these kids the right to make some chump change of their own a fight that towns really want to get into? I can see elected officials losing elections real, real soon if this continues.

Are there loopholes for these kids if the shut-downs continue, such as partnering with a local non-profit and gaining access to their no-tax status? What’s next? W-4 forms for kids (block printing allowed).

On the average, will kids really make over $400 in one summer and have to report it to the IRS and pay taxes on the income? No wonder kids now receive social security numbers at birth. It used to be you obtained one when you turned sixteen and got a part time summer job, but no more. You get that number ASAP when you’re born and as soon as you’re tall enough to stand on a stool and make your own lemonade, you are now also old enough to report income and pay taxes.

I don’t have the average amount made at one lemonade stand, but I did visit one run by three of my neighbors with small children where I live. They will be out this Saturday to fight the good fight and for sure I’ll be purchasing a glass or two—or even three. Heck, maybe I’ll open up a stand of my own.

With soldiers in Iraq still being killed, the debt ceiling catastrophe and natural weather disasters popping up all over the world, does it really seem fair to focus on little Billy, Sally and Sue just out making some summer weekend extra cash? I think not, folks.

I’m sure the opinions here are vast. Should kids be forced to follow grown-up rules or should selling lemonade remain the summer past-time it’s always been? You already know how I feel, but what’s your opinion?

If you agree with me and want to fight the good fight, visit the Lemonade Freedom website, follow them on Facebook and Twitter (links in reference section) and maybe together we can put an end to this ridiculous battle. This, my friends, has put a bad taste in my mouth—but a cool and refreshing glass of lemonade should take the taste away real fast!

Set up, sell and drink up this weekend folks—don’t let our local governments turn tasty lemonade into sour lemons.