County commission advances business tax proposal

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 5/11/22

 GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County Commissioners heard more on passing a business tax – a fee for all county businesses – at Tuesday night’s meeting before deciding to advance the proposal …

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County commission advances business tax proposal

Posted

 GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County Commissioners heard more on passing a business tax – a fee for all county businesses – at Tuesday night’s meeting before deciding to advance the proposal for further discussion. The tax is charged to any business, profession or occupation in the county. The county’s municipalities, and St. Johns and Duval counties have similar taxes. Comparable entities to the county are charging an annual fee of $25-$40 depending on a business’ classification.

Assistant County Manager Troy Nagle and County Attorney Courtney Grimm said Martin and Indian River counties are the two counties commissioners should look at. Based on state statute, Grimm said a business tax could not be increased, only reduced or repealed.

“When you’re trying to proceed, the first thing you have to do is look at adjacent counties,” Grimm said. “... We tried to determine if they had done a study.”

During earlier meetings, county officials said the goal was to create a registry of businesses that could allow for better enforcement of the sales tax through the Department of Revenue. However, others countered the idea by asking if a registry was a task for another agency.

Nagle said a tax would allow an analysis of businesses in the county and for emergency officials to have an accurate list of businesses. He informed commissioners that non-paying businesses would go through the county’s code enforcement department. There are numerous exemptions regarding the tax such as military service, poverty, age or religious status.

The fee would generate between $175,000-$280,000 depending on the fee charged, according to county figures.

Commissioner Kristin Burke said a fee is a small amount to pay to let others know where you do business.

“I just think this would be a positive way for them to let people know they’re there,” Burke said.

Board Chair Wayne Bolla said he was concerned the rate can’t be raised with inflation. Seeing Green Cove Springs Commissioner Van Royal in the audience, Bolla and County Commissioner Mike Cella asked him to speak on the city’s similar tax.

Royal said the city uses its registry of businesses and it has tangible benefits. His issue was if the county’s business tax was collected in addition to a municipality’s tax. A $40 fee is much less than Green Cove Springs’ current business tax, Grimm said.

Royal was told the county would give a percentage of collected fees to municipalities.

“It just seems like that’s a little bit of double taxation,” he said.

The government doesn’t belong in people’s businesses, Commissioner Betsy Condon said. She said the county could just ask for the Clay Economic Development Corporation’s business data. She said the move isn’t business-friendly and she didn’t see the benefit.

“I’ve been a ‘no’ the whole time,” she said.

County commissioners gave direction for county staff to pursue a $40 business tax. Grimm said commissioners would put the ordinance for a vote by June.

 

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