Business owners say new fee could cripple county's 'economic boom'

Business owners say new fee could cripple county's 'economic boom'

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WIS) - At his recycling yard in Orangeburg County, Joe Rich answers call after call. Some of those calls are about the business he owns, Sunshine Recycling.

"We've got a concrete recycling operation, which is where you are now. Asphalt, brick, and block," he explained.

But lately, Rich has had other calls to answer. He and other business owners are fighting against a business license fee Orangeburg County might soon collect.

"I think it's very convoluted. It's very confusing. I think it's going to have a lot of impact on different business and industry that the county doesn't expect it to have impact on," he said.

If Orangeburg County Council votes it through, businesses will have to pay a fee to get a business license.

For smaller businesses, it could cost hundreds of dollars each year. For bigger ones, the fee could cost thousands. That fee will be calculated based on how much income a business brings in annually.

For instance, a retailer or manufacturer who grosses $100,000 each year would pay $98.50. One that grosses $1,000,000 would pay $773.50. A farmer who grosses $100,000 would pay $62.24 each year. One who grosses $1,000,000 would pay $404.24.

"It's just about unanimous, from everyone you talk to in the private sector at least, are against this," Rich said. "I don't think I've run into two people that are in favor of this ordinance as it's written today."

Rich's business would feel an impact, but he's more concerned about new bureaucratic red tape and the burden smaller businesses could feel.

"There's going to be a big accounting burden for a smaller business that conceivably can't afford their accounting burden now," he said.

Even though the fee's being considered to generate revenue in Orangeburg County, without touching property taxes, Rich offers this warning.

"The reality here is the consumer's going to pay the bill for this. Business and industry is going to add this on to every single transaction that they do in Orangeburg County," Rich said.

Rich is not alone. Both the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce have voiced opposition.

"The business license tax, under consideration by the Orangeburg County Council, is not only burdensome for businesses to comply with because of the process but is also bad because it taxes gross revenue whether you make a profit or not," wrote the state chamber. "Orangeburg is on the cusp of an economic boom, but adding a new tax on business is sure to have a negative impact."

Monday at 5:30 p.m., Orangeburg County Council will welcome public input on the proposal. At this point, it's still unclear if and when council will vote on the business license fee.

There are only a handful of counties in the state that charge business license fees:  they are Richland, Sumter, Dorchester, Horry, Marion, Charleston, Jasper, and Beaufort.

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