Can kids sell cupcakes without a permit?

Some parents in a New York City suburb are upset because a local politician called police on two 13-year-old boys for selling cupcakes and other baked goods without a permit.

From The Associated Press:

“The Journal News in Westchester County reported Monday that New Castle Councilman Michael Wolfensohn had called police last month. The newspaper says it requested the police report after receiving a complaint from a friend of one of the boys’ families.”

“Andrew DeMarchis and Kevin Graff had a brisk business selling cupcakes, cookies, brownies and Rice Krispie treats in a Chappaqua (CHAP’-uh-kwah) park.”

“Kevin’s mother, Laura Graff, says the teens are “good kids” who were scared by the police call.”

“Wolfensohn says rules are rules. But he concedes calling the police might have been a half-baked decision.”

Teens babysit all the time, make good money and aren’t required to have child care licenses. Lots of teens dog sit, cut lawns and do a variety of other services without the red tape of the adult world. Was this different because it was selling a good? Was it because it was in a public park? (Walsh talks all the time about selling snow cones at the ball fields. He thinks he would make a killing!)

Should kids be able to run “small” businesses without permits or business licenses required by adults? Should they report their income as taxable? (My mom used to make me pay taxes on my babysitting money. She’s an accountant.)

Should these kids be rewarded and praised for being industrious and entrepreneurial? Should they have to follow all the business rules adults do?

64 comments Add your comment

thing that make u say hmmmm

November 15th, 2010
1:06 pm

This is nuts! I can’t believe the best things these politicians have to do is pick on a couple kids who are doing what most of us did growing up! (Like lemonade stands) I think the kids should be commended for taking there time to bake goods and using their Saturday afternoons working to sell them. I can think of much worse things kids their age do with their free time. I also think the parents should be commended for teaching their kids that money dosen’t grow on trees, that you have to work to make it. I have several friends who spoiled kids want ipods, laptops, video games, name brand clothing, etc. but wouldn’t lift a finger to earn money and get it on their own. Shame on you for scaring these kids, I say the world would be a much better place with more kids like them.


November 15th, 2010
1:09 pm

It’s different because a) the goods are food and/or b) they’re selling in a park. If food vendors and trucks are subjected to health laws and/or vendor permits, why should kids get a pass just because they’re younger? I could see an exception for selling out of their own homes (such as a lemonade stand in their own front yard), but part of being industrious and entrepreneurial is learning the rules of where you can set up business and what steps you have to go through to do so. Frankly, learning how to do things properly will be far more valuable to them as they move into adulthood than the cash they can earn. Babysitting and lawn care arranged privately with customers and taking place on private property shouldn’t require a permit (I don’t think it usually does for adults, right, unless they are keeping over a certain number of kids?), but yes, the income should be reported and taxes paid.


November 15th, 2010
1:11 pm

This is beyond ridiculous! Is there even a specific “cupcake selling” permit? Why am I not surprised to hear it was a city councilman that called the cops on these kids? This pathetic jerk on a power trip should be forced to reimburse the city for the cost of sending out the police to investigate something so silly.


November 15th, 2010
1:13 pm

Why am I not surprised to hear a city councilman was behind this?! This pathetic jerk on a power trip should be forced to reimburse the city for the cost of sending out the police to investigate something so silly!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJCMOMania, ajcparenting. ajcparenting said: AJC's Momania blog: Can kids sell cupcakes without a permit? [...]


November 15th, 2010
1:26 pm

Wow! I am going to guess that the problem was they were at a public park as opposed to a shop set up in their front yard. Kids in my subdivision were selling lemonade at the front of the subdivision this summer and no one bothered them. A couple of officers actually stopped and brought some.

Andy's SAWB

November 15th, 2010
1:40 pm

“rules are rules”. When you don’t know what to do revert back to an asinine cliche. Sort of reminds me of “zero tolerance.”


November 15th, 2010
1:52 pm

Yes they should be required to get a permit to sell cupcakes and/or lemonaide. They also need to pay their fair share of taxes on the profits. They need to keep a ledger of all the expenses, all the receipts, and file W-9’s, etc. Then INS needs to pay them a visit to be sure they are legal Americans.

No one should make ANY money without giving most of it to the government!!!! These kids need to learn what it’s like in the real world, where the government sticks it’s hands out for their hard earned money.

Just kidding……..

No there should not be permits to sell cupcakes. This is silly.

However, you cannot have garage Sale in Sugar Hill without a permit……



November 15th, 2010
2:03 pm

@JJ – LOL. Nice job of showing how ridiculous this was.

Perhaps the location wasn’t the best, but the councilman shouldn’t have been such a weenie. He could have just asked the kids to move and explained why, but he had to make a giant mountain of a molehill and call the cops. I’m sure those officers were annoyed at the call, and didn’t relish writing such a silly report.

As for paying taxes, really? Doesn’t the IRS only require taxes if the income is above a certain level?


November 15th, 2010
2:04 pm

Wow – my comment didn’t post because I called the councilman a ‘we3nie’. Speaking of making a mountain out of a molehill…

@JJ – Loved your comment and wrote a funny response – sorry I can’t remember it!

TnT's Mom

November 15th, 2010
2:06 pm

Why didn’t the council man or whatever he was, go to the kids and just let them know of the city ordinances and that a permit was required? Sending the police was a waste of the policman’s time and the city’s money. All it did was scare the kids.

yes, the kids needed to be aware of the rules, yes if adult food vendors have to follow the rules, then kids do to. but sending the cops was in poor form.

but yes congrats to the parents for encouraging the kids to be entrepreneurial, but the parents should have helped them by researching the city ordinances. Most people should realize that selling food to the public is full of health regulations.


November 15th, 2010
2:23 pm

No I don’t think the kids should be paying taxes….they have pleanty ahead of them paying for all the expenditures that the current Congress approved as “stimulus”

yeah…I went there…..


November 15th, 2010
2:26 pm

JOD, there may be exemptions for certain household jobs if under 18, but I’m fairly certain that as of age 18, babysitting and gardening income have to be reported if over a few hundred dollars (probably not for income tax unless they make quite a bit, just SSI).


November 15th, 2010
2:28 pm

FCM, don’t let your daughter dumb it down under any circumstances. I won’t be letting mine. Mine may want to find a decent guy one day and I fear she’ll have a tough time of it bcause they won’t have any idea what a man is supposed to be. My actions now will set the table for what she expects out of the men in her life.

Keep up the good fight.


November 15th, 2010
2:32 pm

I could see an exception if the kids were selling in their front yard. However, they were selling on public property. I am sure that a lot of adults would love to set up in the park without any local gov’t rules or permits and sell goods as well. Also, food comes with a lot of regulation. I am surprised that the health dept. didn’t get involved.

I had to get a business license when I was 12 to set up at a local flea market(misc junk/antiques). My parents did not make a fuss, because everyone there had to go to town hall and get a license. Learning all aspects of the business are important, regardless of age. Kid’s should not be entitled to do business without going through the same steps as everyone else just because they are kids.


November 15th, 2010
2:37 pm

There’s a difference between a Flea Market and a lemonade/cupcake stand in a neighborhood…..


November 15th, 2010
2:40 pm

Indeed there is, JJ, but these kids weren’t in a neighborhood, they were in a park that requires all vendors be permitted.


November 15th, 2010
3:05 pm

I was replying to Alecia…….


November 15th, 2010
3:13 pm

The councilman may not really care about the waste of money, due to calling the police.
Lots of folks who are in government jobs waste money….just not their own…IMHO.

JJ…that is crazy….do we need a permit in Lawrenceville? I have had maybe 4 garage sales in the 13 years we lived here and do not know.


November 15th, 2010
3:49 pm

I think it’s more a question of expectations. If someone is selling something in public, there’s a bit of an assumption that it’s prepared within certain guidelines. Personally, if I bought something from a kid, my expectations wouldn’t be that high :-) But Alecia is right — when they went into competition with other park vendors, the playing field needs to be somewhat level, so to speak. The other vendors have to pass health inspections, licensing, permits, etc. and kids setting up a table takes directly away from their income, too.

Goodness only knows how many bad cups of lemonade I have bought in our neighborhood — during the summer, I always carry around some quarters on my walk. :-) And, of course, bake sales are a grey area, if someone wanted to really get obnoxious about it.

For all practical matters, the city councilman didn’t really have the authority to shoo the kids away, so the call to the poice wasn’t really a stretch. Or maybe he did try, and got some lip for it? Who knows? Anyway, as lessons go, it’s a relatively inexpensive one. :-)


November 15th, 2010
3:57 pm

Now my 2nd post is gone, too. Boo, TWG. :o(


November 15th, 2010
4:10 pm

But they can sell cookies/cakes for school functions and girl scout cookies?

UF Mom

November 15th, 2010
4:12 pm

JOD, I am seeing both of your posts. Maybe there is a posting delay? Mine always seem to take 5-10 minutes to show up after I submit.


November 15th, 2010
4:22 pm

@UF Mom – Mine used to show up immediately, but maybe there is a delay now? I assumed it was due to my ‘questionable’ language :o)


November 15th, 2010
4:22 pm

Donna, I googled a bit and another article (sorry, it was earlier today and I don’t have a link) said the town requires all groups to have a permit, but that the town will sometimes waive the permit fee for nonprofits/charitable causes that apply and are approved. I don’t know if that means they approve bake sales (there could be health regs involved with that — who knows?), but I would guess prepackaged Girl Scout cookies would comply with any health codes and a troop would only need the vendor permit.


November 15th, 2010
4:30 pm

If they are doing this in a public park and on a regular basis then yes they should get the permits. And if they are making a substantial amount of money it needs to be reported for tax purposes.


November 15th, 2010
4:34 pm

Organizations such as churches and clubs sell bottled water,baked goods and fruit on the street corners all the time.The street is city property. I’m sure they aren’t paying taxes and I know they dont have permits. Give a kid a break, they could be doing worse things in a city park.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lesley Catlett, Icing On Cake Book. Icing On Cake Book said: #cupcakes #news Can kids sell cupcakes without a permit? – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]


November 15th, 2010
4:54 pm

There are too many missing details from this story for me to actually make truthful opinion.
Were the cops called the first day (time) they started selling in the park or after they had been there a few times?
Did the councilman confront the boys and ask any questions before calling the police?
What did the police say or do after being called?
Were the boys charged or given a citation?


November 15th, 2010
4:56 pm

HB-you MUST work for the IRS!

CA Bowden

November 15th, 2010
5:12 pm

I would be concerned about the cleanliness and handling of these cupcakes as some kids after urinating and having bowel movements don’t wash their hands. I would give them a donation and let them keep their cupcakes.


November 15th, 2010
5:23 pm

The cops should come to southwest Atlanta and take a look around at all the people selling their homemade crap. With no standards in their kitches i assume. Candy apples, sliced fruit, barbecue. I guess in black parts of town breaking the law is okay.

blah blah

November 15th, 2010
5:32 pm

Sounds like these kids got a good lesson in how laws prevent the common person from easily working for themselves, and instead force them to cow tow and go work for a large company. A valuable lesson learned sooner rather than later. *Sigh*

GT Alum

November 15th, 2010
5:45 pm

I can see either side of the argument. Since they were as old as 13, I can see how getting all the paperwork done could be a good exercise for them. However, I don’t know how much hassle there is in getting a permit, but, if it’s as much as a lot of government red tape is, it could discourage kids from taking initiative to do stuff. Not to mention that their parents might not have the time to take them to the government offices, which are probably only open while the parents are working.

As far as the comments about needing to make sure that there need to be higher standards for selling food in a public area, even if things like bake sales get permits, I don’t really know how much that ensures quality. I don’t think anyone ever inspected my mom’s kitchen or any of the food we took for bake sales. For all anyone knew, they could’ve been made in atrocious conditions.

And I like tina’s point. I live downtown, and I wonder how many of the people I see selling goods on the side of the street where people are walking to events like concerts and sporting events have permits.


November 15th, 2010
6:00 pm

1) Parks are public property. The standard for selling there is higher than on public property.
2) Food is a different matter than other goods or services.
3) Having a lemonade stand for a week is one thing (and selling cupcakes one Saturday is one thing, too). Were these teenagers doing it for several weeks running?
4) This doesn’t have to be a tear-ridden affair of terror, even with the police involved. The teens now know that they need a permit. So let them get a permit. If they want to do this regularly, then they need a license. So let them get a license.
5) I think most of us agree that there’s a point at which the teens *have* to come under the regular laws. For instance, if they make a few thousand dollars every Saturday… if they begin to franchise out the cupcake business… if they were to quit school and do this every day for 10-12 hours… Clearly then they’re operating a small business. So we’re not arguing over whether there’s a line; we’re arguing over where it is. I agree with the authorities here that if they’re selling in a publicly-owned area, they need the permit or license.


November 15th, 2010
6:05 pm

To look at the questions:
Should kids be able to run “small” businesses without permits or business licenses required by adults? Adults don’t have to report business income under a certain amount ($400 or less, maybe? Or $600? I haven’t freelanced in a few years, so I don’t know the certain $$). Kids need to get the permits or licenses when their income is large enough to trigger the law.

Should they report their income as taxable? (My mom used to make me pay taxes on my babysitting money. She’s an accountant.). Yes, if they meet the threshold.

Should these kids be rewarded and praised for being industrious and entrepreneurial? Of course.

Should they have to follow all the business rules adults do? Yep.


November 15th, 2010
6:09 pm

This is a typical AJC article , big headline and then only tell part of the story.
every comment here is based on speculation because the “reporter” decided
not to give the full details of what happened.

Michael Wolfensohn

November 15th, 2010
6:18 pm

[...] for charity, the newspaper said. Kevin's mother, Laura Graff, said the teens were “good kids”Michael Wolfensohn – However, New Castle Councilman Michael Wolfensohn called the police after discovering the sale [...]

[...] C&#1072n kids sell cupcakes lacking a permit? Tags: city councilman, goodness, health inspections, lemonade, neighborhood [...]


November 15th, 2010
7:36 pm

I can’t believe they even wasted time going after a couple kids having honest fun earning honest money. Would the government prefer them selling drugs, and doing a lot of other crap too? nevermind you need a permit to sell drugs too. This is all a bunch of BS


November 15th, 2010
7:51 pm

I only read the article and the last comment from Dave. So if Dave would be kind enough to inform us of the “Full Details,” then we could be more tolerant of the councilmans complaint. After living in Florida for 18 years and then moving to the “SOUTH” I was under the impression all the old people that hated kids lived in Florida. It didn’t take more that a few weeks to observe that old people everywhere hate kids. So, if your an old cogger remember to get your daily recommended % of fiber and NEVER FORGET JUST HOW MUCH FUN IT WAS TO BE YOUNG. With that said please keep in mind you only have to do it until your DEAD!!! Now that should cheer you up!!


November 15th, 2010
7:59 pm

Clearly these kids were funding terrorists with the proceeds of their baked goods sales. If they refuse to submit to an invasive body scan, they should be forced to be felt up by TSA idiots.


November 15th, 2010
8:52 pm

HEY SLOB, Why don’t you ask Theresa Walsh Giarrusso she’s the one that posted this useless story. I think others were wondering also. EDWARD asked some good questions earlier that could give some more insight to the story.

Historical Realist

November 15th, 2010
9:04 pm

This is what you get when you allow government to regulate ANY business. It is just a matter of time until this kind of nonsence happens. All of you government lovers out there are to blame. Those of us who realize that there is no inch to give to the government are condemned at every turn, yet the progression from “stopping the evildoers” to demanding a permit from Jimmy and his lemonade stand is inevitable. The rest of you are just too naive to admit it.

John H

November 15th, 2010
10:43 pm

This happened weeks before the election. More voters would have voted against Dems had they read this story.

[...] Can kids sell cupcakes without a permit? – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) The Journal News in Westchester County reported Monday that New Castle Councilman Michael Wolfensohn had called police last month. The newspaper says it requested the police report after receiving a complaint from a friend of one of the boys’ families.” Nov 16, 2010 7:58am [...]


November 16th, 2010
5:31 am

Historical Realist: I am on same page. When I first read the story, my first reaction was “Ridiculous!” But, the blogger makes an interesting point: should we require children to abide by the same rules? It’s a double-edged sword. If the younger generation is exposed early to government burden, it will either become immune to it, or preferably learn that it is oppressive and counterproductive. I also understand Shannon’s points. (Respectful) thoughts along these lines?


November 16th, 2010
7:15 am

Just out of curiosity, what age does someone have to be for the law to apply to them as it does to everyone else? 18? 17-year-old entrepreneurs get a pass, but the 18-year-olds had better not cross the line?

Or do you guys glorify businesses so much that you don’t think they should be regulated at all?

This isn’t brain surgery. You sell on public property, you have to have a permit. You do sufficient business, and you have to have a license.

The end.


November 16th, 2010
7:25 am

These kids were just sales reps. They make commission selling the goodies their Mom’s are busy baking in their illegal bakery at home. Or…their Mom’s are forcing their sisters to bake in their illegal kitchen. It’s actually an issue with child labor laws. Who knows how high up this goes? Is Granny behind the whole thing?

Melissa Elliott

November 16th, 2010
9:06 am

The Cobb County police department gave the kids in our East Cobb neighborhood a warning for selling lemonade over the summer for not having a permit. Really?