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Association pursues business-friendly portal

After Representative Rick Quinn introduced a bill last February to cap business license taxes, Association staff, he and representatives from the business community participated in a series of meetings.

During the meetings, the staff provided information about the business license tax including an explanation about rate classes and the rationale for using gross income as the basis of the amount owed. Representative Quinn and the other stakeholders had an opportunity to express their concerns and frustrations with business licensing. The group then turned its attention to finding solutions agreeable to all those represented.

For businesses, time is money. A common theme heard among the stakeholders was businesses wanted an easier, more streamlined way to pay for their business license.

Out of these conversations, the Municipal Association staff brought to its board of directors the idea of making an investment on behalf of the cities and towns to build an online portal to offer businesses a more efficient and cohesive way to pay for their license renewal. The board agreed to the proposal at its October board meeting.

"Business owners are only getting younger. That population has grown up ‘connected’ and expect to be able to pay online. It is the day and age where we all expect to be able to pay our bills online," explained Miriam Hair, executive director of the Municipal Association.

Similar to the Association’s successful collections programs that collect business license taxes from insurance brokers, insurance companies and telecommunications companies on behalf of South Carolina cities, the new portal would collect business license taxes owed by businesses for renewing their license. The Association would distribute the tax to the individual cities. For the portal to work, cities and towns will need to have a common due date, class schedule and definition of gross income.

While the Association will pay for the portal development and related work, ongoing costs will be covered through a convenience fee.

The Association will act only as the conduit for paying the tax. Business licensing officials will still have to approve the license. A task force of business licensing officials has been meeting to help develop the standardized practices.

In addition to working with the task force, Association staff has met with managers and administrators, mayors, the Business Licensing Officials Association and other municipal stakeholders to explain the portal and gather input.

"Creating the portal right now is the right thing to do," said Mayor Bill Young, president of the Municipal Association, "It adds value to cities and towns and shows that we are committed to providing business-friendly services."