Business owners: It’s a bad time for new tax
Concerned business owners filled a Thursday morning meeting at the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority building to discuss a proposed business license fee for Douglas County.
“You can shoot darts at us,” Assistant County Manager Michael Brown said when starting the meeting. “Our skin is getting thicker as time progresses.”
The purpose of the meeting was to gather public opinion for the county’s proposed business license fee. The county is losing money, and the fee would generate an estimated $600,000 to $700,000 in revenue for services such as the fire department and sheriff’s office.
Currently, Douglas County does not have complete information on the businesses operating in the county, so the fee also would provide the county with this knowledge.
The model structure that the county presented was a basic fee of $100 for each business, with an additional fee for the number of employees the business employs.
“One hundred dollars for a small business is really high,” said Penny Teshara with Teshara Management Services.
Others attending the meeting said the timing of the proposal was poor, coming after a slow winter last year that had relatively scant snowfall and the effects of the Angora fire over the summer.
“This is the worst conceivable time to be going after a business tax,” said SCORE Counselor Jack Van Dien. He works with individuals starting up businesses by providing counseling for them.
Henry Randy Butler, president of NHD Mortgage Co., said he’s against the business license fee.
“You’re going to tell these people who are hanging on by their toenails, so to speak, to pay more taxes,” Butler said.
More taxes could drive business out of Douglas County, he added.
Instead of taxing small businesses, the casinos should be taxed, said Diane Rogers of NHD Mortgage Co. The casinos are using the fire and sheriff services, so they should have to pay for them.
Another complication with the business license fee is the Internet. Many businesses don’t operate under a traditional model and work with people all over the country and the globe. Business owners were concerned they would be taxed for workers who not physically in Douglas County.
Brown said they would express that concern to the board when they present their recommendations for the business license fee.
Lisa Granahan, assistant to the county manager, said a model structure for the business license fee would be presented to the Douglas County Commission in December or January based on the public input collected. If the board approves the model, then a formal ordinance will be written and read at public meetings to gather more input.
The fee could be approved by the commission as soon as February.
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