Local Business Tax Act may be repealed

JOHN THRASHER
When the Florida legislative session resumes Monday, St Augustine Senator John Thrasher and Senator Stephen R. Wise, whose district includes parts of St Johns County, will convene to take up a contentious bill that would repeal the Local Business Tax Act.

Senate Bill 760, which is identical to House Bill 4025, is first on the Monday, January 23, 2012 agenda; to be taken up by members of the Committee on Community Affairs.

If the bill, introduced by Senator Hays, is successful, it will eliminate chapter 205 of the Florida statutes that authorizes counties and cities to levy and collect local business taxes; formerly known as the “occupational license” tax.

Currently, St Johns County is one of approximately 35 of Florida’s 67 counties that collect revenue from local business taxes. Additionally, the City of St Augustine and the City of St Augustine Beach each collect local business taxes from companies located within their jurisdiction.

The total fiscal impact of Senate Bill 760 would produce an estimated negative $164 million impact to counties and cities annually.

The impact of the recession on local government cannot be understated. In most areas around Florida where the tax is collected, the fees generated are earmarked for economic development purposes.

Those who oppose the bill, such as the Florida Association of Counties and its members, say repeal of the Local Business Tax Act ignores the consistent dedicated investment of local governments in their own local economic development.

Other current laws and pending legislation have reduced, and will further reduce, the amount of money local governments can collect through property taxes through the enactment of exemptions and millage rate caps.

Elimination of the business tax will require governments to either find other revenue sources or reduce spending.

The Florida Senate Committee on Community Affairs oversees a broad range of issues relating to local governments; community development districts; homestead exemptions; property assessment and taxation; growth management; affordable housing; building code and inspection; zoning and siting; local government finance and taxation; impact fees; mandates; eminent domain; retirement issues for local employees; homeowners associations; disaster preparedness; community redevelopment; enterprise zones; coastal management; ADA and handicapped parking.

Chair: Senator Michael S. “Mike” Bennett (R)
Vice Chair: Senator Jim Norman (R)
•Senator Audrey Gibson (D)
•Senator Garrett Richter (R)
•Senator Jeremy Ring (D)
•Senator Ronda Storms (R)
•Senator John Thrasher (R)
•Senator Stephen R. Wise (R)

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