DeKalb businesses may pay a higher business tax next year under a plan being considered by the county’s Board of Commissioners. But some commissioners say the increase would be “punitive.”
If implemented, the higher business tax could bring in an additional $4 million in revenue, according to interim finance director Joel Gottlieb. The move would bring DeKalb’s business tax, which was last adjusted 10 years ago, more in line with neighboring municipalities, Gottlieb said.
The idea for the increase came from the DeKalb County Revenue Enhancement Commission, which was made up of business and community leaders. The group was asked by the board to find ways to increase revenue.
The formula for the tax is based on a combination of a $75 non-refundable administration fee; a fee based on the number of employees; a $50 minimum flat tax; and a tax for gross receipts higher than $20,000. What would increase in the formula is the tax rate per dollar higher than $20,000, Gottlieb said.
Liquor stores, which are exempt from paying business taxes because of old state codes, would now be required to get a county business license. Currently, package stores pay a $4,900 flat rate to do business in DeKalb. Under the proposed ordinance, the tax would be based on a combination of a flat rate plus gross receipts. The change in the package store tax could bring about $700,000 for the county, Gottlieb said during a recent meeting of the board of commissioners.
David Cho, who owns Hal’s Package Store on Columbia Drive, said a tax increase would be “really terrible.”
“This year business has really decreased,” said Cho, adding that he hopes any tax increase is minimal. “Why are they increasing it anyway?” Cho asked.
Calling the increase “punitive,” Commissioner Elaine Boyer objected to raising the business tax without benefitting the businesses.
“The business tax is just a fee,” Boyer said. “Business get zero for it. This is just a fee for opening your doors in DeKalb County.” Boyer added that the county should look for ways to use the tax to “rejuvenate business in DeKalb County.”
Commissioner Larry Johnson said the county needs to determine how the increased tax would “incentive business in the midst of a recession.”
“Businesses aren’t growing like we want them to,” Johnson said. “The county should not be a barrier.”
The ordinance is set to come before the board again on Dec. 14.