Business License Proposal Eyed In Cumberland

Published 4:23 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2012

CUMBERLAND – County Administrator Judy Ownby recently requested that the Cumberland Board of Supervisors consider changing the threshold amount, which would trigger the requirement of a business license in Cumberland-the original discussion started last year with the County's old board and was requested to be brought up, again, for discussion by the County's Commissioner of Revenue office and Community Development office.

Ms. Ownby asked that the Board revisit the annual gross receipts requiring a business license, which hasn't been changed since 1991.

Currently, according to the information provided, babysitters, 'the Avon lady,' and many others making small amounts of money annually are required to obtain a business license.

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The Commissioner of Revenue's opinion, Ms. Ownby stated, is that the threshold in the County Code should be revised.

“Is the purpose of the business license a means to keep track of businesses in the county or does it have the purpose of being a revenue source?” asked Chairman David Meinhard, District Four, during the discussion in January.

Supervisor Parker Wheeler, District Five, noted that it affords the County the ability to track its businesses and that it's a “very tiny revenue source.”

“For the amount that we have to pay (business license fee) it's so minimal that if someone did do $1,000 for a $30 dollar fee I don't think it's something that would upset the apple cart,” continued Wheeler.

Cumberland's current basic business license fee is $30 a year.

“I believe the Commissioner of Revenue has made a recommendation to increase that to $10,000,” responded Supervisor Lloyd Banks, District Two. “I don't believe it's a matter of if you're operating a business-I think it's a matter of whether you have income. I know of constituents in my district who are simply babysitting or cutting grass or what have you and they have to come down and purchase a business license. It's certainly not a license to conduct business-it's simply a tax. Buckingham does not have that tax…”

Before being advised by the County Administrator that the Board could not decide and vote during that night's meeting before, first, holding a public hearing, Banks put his recommendation in the form of a motion and Chairman Meinhard asked if there was any further discussion.

After clarification, the Board then voted to set the proposal to change the threshold for the business license fee for a public hearing at its Tuesday, February 14 meeting.

According to information from the Commissioner of Revenue's office, raising the threshold from $3,000 to $10,000 would result in a loss of $3,960 from 132 businesses at $30 each based on 2010 revenues.

Anita French, Cumberland's Commissioner of Revenue, explained to The Herald after the meeting that the request had been brought to the Board's attention based on complaints received from citizens visiting her office.

“This came about because people had been complaining…,” she said. “They are putting it on a Schedule C and, of course, the instructions for that Schedule C, an IRS form, it says the filing for a business or a profession and in the instructions section it says that filing of this form may subject you to a local business license if your county has a business license ordinance and, of course, ours does. So, I really came forward with that to ask the Board to look at it because I'd had so many complaints. It's not really my recommendation, it's just because so many citizens had been in my office to complain…”

But Ms. French did agree that the threshold should be increased.

“You can take it to $5,000 or you can take it to $10,000…and, of course, it has come forward at a $10,000 amount,” she offered. “I think it needs to be raised now as to the amount-that's what we did the report to the Board to show them how much revenue they would lose if they did do it.”

The Supervisors will consider changing the threshold amount required to obtain a business license in Cumberland after holding a public hearing on Tuesday, February 14.