Grace wants to license even the tiniest businesses

Published 12:39 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Says county needs to keep tabs on all enterprises

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice wants to charge all businesses making less than $4,000 a year a $5 business license fee in order to keep track of what’s going on in Isle of Wight County.

Doesn’t the county want to know what businesses are operating on a regular basis, asked Grice during a Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors work session on Thursday.

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Currently, businesses with gross receipts under $4,000 are exempt from needing a business license. The Board is looking at changing the $50 flat rate from $50,000 to $100,000 in gross revenues. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Under the proposed plan, the tax rate specific to a type of business would then kick in for gross receipts above $100,000.

Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said York County charges a $1 fee for businesses below a certain threshold, but that’s mostly so they can participate in the county’s equivalent of a farmers market.

While many businesses pay the $1, it is costly from an administrative standpoint and York County is looking to adopt a flat rate policy similar to Isle of Wight County, Robertson said.

Board Chairman Rex Alphin wanted to know if Isle of Wight defines what a business is — or is not.

Isle of Wight County attorney Mark Popovich said the county has not defined a business in its ordinance, so in that case, the common meaning would suffice.

In that case, a business is any enterprise that is entered into to make a profit, he said.

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said the county needs to make the distinction between a hobby and a business. Jefferson didn’t think $50 would break anyone wanting to open a business and $5 wouldn’t cover the administrative costs involved in issuing a business license.

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty said a businessperson could get around the business license requirements by opening multiple businesses under different names and selling the same sort of items.

“I’m pretty confident that’s going on in the county,” he said.

Robertson said that any change the Board ends up making would not be included in the pending fiscal 2018 budget and would become effective Jan. 1.

Robertson said it would be helpful to know what the Board’s objective was in making a change — is it to help small business or increase accountability?

A $5 fee for small business may send the wrong message, Robertson said.

Alphin gave an example of someone making a picture frame for a neighbor.

“I see no reason for someone to come down here to get a permit if they’re going to sell a $10 frame to a neighbor … I don’t think we need to do that as a county,” Alphin said.

“They (the county) don’t need to know everything that’s going on,” he said. 

Grice said he’s not looking to tax hobbies.

But if it’s done on a regular basis, doesn’t the county want to know that?, asked Grice.

The issue remains under discussion.  {/mprestriction}