We are excited to see a new bill introduced in the South Carolina state legislature to standardize business licensing across municipalities in South Carolina. From architects to food trucks, many of Lowcountry Local First’s 500+ members companies work in multiple jurisdictions, yet are disproportionately impacted by cumbersome and wildly-differing policies and procedures when it comes to business licensing and renewals. For small businesses, which create 2/3 of net new jobs, delays in navigating the paperwork of doing business add up to be costly. And often time is money.

The Municipal Association of South Carolina is leading the advocacy charge on The SC Business License Tax Standardization Act (H 5109), and details their interest here:

The SC Business License Tax Standardization Act (H 5109) is intended to make doing business with cities and towns easier by streamlining the process of renewing business licenses. This bill meets the goal of the business community to standardize practices across the state and the goal of cities to be more business-friendly.

“We certainly understand the frustrations expressed by the business community when they point to the wide variety of processes across cities and towns in South Carolina related to renewing a business license,” said Miriam Hair, executive director of the Municipal Association. “Imagine a landscaper working in multiple cities. He may be dealing with a variety of business licensing processes, forms and due dates in each jurisdiction. This legislation standardizes these processes and makes available a payment portal for businesses to pay the tax to multiple cities and towns at one time.”

Highlights of the legislation include:

Due Date

  • The business license year will be the same for all cities so businesses with locations in multiple cities do not have to keep track of the varying dates. A penalty will not be applied until April 30 after the federal tax return is due.
  • The process for construction projects remains the same – the license is issued on individual construction projects rather than on an annual basis.

Application

  • Businesses may use the same standardized business license application in all cities. Cities must accept the application.        

 Definition of gross and calculation

  • Business license taxes in all cities will be calculated using the same definition of gross income. This simplifies the accounting for businesses since every city will use the same  methodology.

Business license class schedule

  • Cities will adopt a standardized business class schedule that is based on the profitability of business sectors as calculated by using IRS statistics. Therefore, businesses that operate in multiple cities will always be in the same class.
  • Each city council will continue to set the business license rate for each class of business in their city.

 Portal

  • A central portal will allow businesses to renew multiple business licenses online at one time. The portal is in addition to the current options for renewal. Businesses can mail the renewal, go in person to city hall or use the centralized portal.

 Revenue neutral

  • Cities cannot receive a revenue windfall following the first year of the bill’s implementation.

Great stuff! The legislation applies to license renewals only. New businesses need zoning and permitting approvals before they can obtain their first business license.

We encourage you to CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES now to let them know you support this bill and urge them to VOTE YES on House Bill 5109 – The SC Business License Tax Standardization Act. If you are new to calling your representatives, here’s a handy guide via short video.

For questions on the legislation, please contact the Municipal Association of SC at 803.933.1256 or email cfields@masc.sc

(Top image credit: JIMessenger)

Lauren Gellatly
Community Development Director at Lowcountry Local First