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Taxpayers may subsidize business owners

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Since receiving an earful from many home-based business owners, the Summit County Commission is debating whether taxpayers should subsidize business licenses for the group.

Commissioners claim they were attempting to comply with state law when they hiked the license fee for in-home businesses from $40 to $175. According to Summit County Clerk Susan Follett, counties are no longer allowed to make a profit from license revenue.

The county hired consultant Bob Rosenthal to examine business license fees and he determined it costs the government about $175 to issue a license. Previously, retail behemoths in Summit County had paid several thousand dollars for business licenses.

"Every business is getting the same benefit from the system," Rosenthal said during a meeting Wednesday with the County Commission.

Though the Summit County Attorney’s Office has advised the commissioners that all businesses must be charged the same fee, nothing prevents officials from subsidizing licenses for the area’s smaller entrepreneurs.

But, according to western Summit County resident Larry Eichner, "a flat fee affects the people who can least afford to pay it."

During the 1990s, deputy Summit County attorney Jami Brackin says the Utah Legislature prohibited counties from gouging larger businesses with exorbitant license fees.

To help relieve the sticker shock felt by some business owners when they realized their fees had more than quadrupled in 2006, the Summit County Commission extended the deadline for in-home business owners to pay the fees to March 1.

Next week, commissioners will consider whether to maintain the $175 fee for home-based businesses, phase the fee in over three years, or begin subsidizing some companies’ business license fees.

"People’s trust in their government has been eroded here," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said.

Several county departments must sign off on business licenses, including the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Community Development Department.


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