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City irks business owner

Sat., Dec. 15, 2012

New cost for sole proprietors; fee added to license renewal

Business owner Claudia Kirkebo understands the city of Spokane wants to simplify business license renewals. And she’s not keen on a new $9 service charge for renewing her license on the state Revenue Department website.

But she’s especially upset that the city is collecting an additional $10 charge, an employee fee it had never requested from her before.

Starting in November, Spokane businesses must renew their city license online instead of by mail or in person. The $110 annual fee isn’t changing, but the state also requires a $9 processing fee, which applicants pay once per year.

Until now, the city has not charged an employee fee for sole-proprietor businesses. Businesses with two to five employees pay $15 per employee, and those with more than 10 pay $20 per worker.

Kirkebo operates the barber shop Leland’s on Wall. Spokane Mayor David Condon is among her customers.

Last week, Kirkebo told Condon the new charge is another small but painful increase in fees and taxes that small-business owners find troublesome. She said Condon told her more input from small-business owners might have been sought, but he didn’t say he could reverse the decision.

The $10 sole-proprietor fee is not likely to change, said Marlene Feist, the city’s public affairs manager.

She said the city has required one-person limited liability corporations or S-corporations to pay the $10 charge for years, so it made sense to extend it.

“The choice was to extend the fee to all businesses or charge none of the (one-person) businesses any fee,” Feist said.

Kirkebo also expressed frustration with the city’s communication. When she received a letter this fall explaining the online system and the need for a $9 processing charge, Kirkebo went to City Hall to see if she had options. That was when a clerk explained to her that she also had to pay the sole-proprietor fee.

“My feeling is they should tell us of those changes all at once,” Kirkebo said.

Kirkebo said Condon invited her and some other small-business owners to meet with him in early January. Feist said that is part of Condon’s effort to help businesses control costs.



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