Beaufort County Council seeks feedback on business-license requirements

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 9, 2014 

Beaufort County Council is considering an overhaul of the county's business-license rules -- or eliminating them altogether -- and will seek feedback from businesses as it makes decisions.

The council will discuss the rules with businesses during a forum at 6 p.m. Jan. 29 in council chambers at the administration building at 100 Ribaut Road, Beaufort.

Current rules require businesses operating in unincorporated parts of the county to obtain a license. The amount of the fee depends upon the type of business and its estimated annual gross receipts.

In November, the council approved an exemption for businesses involved in farming, fishing and timber harvesting. Beaufort County was one of three counties in the state without the agricultural exemption, and one of only eight counties requiring business licenses at all, council Chairman Paul Sommerville said at the time.

After debate among council members about whether the license should exist, the council decided to schedule the workshop.

More than 5,300 businesses obtained licenses last year, and the county collected more than $1.55 million in fees, according to Edra Stephens, county director of business licensing. The county expects to collect about $1.4 million in fees this year, she has said.

Those fees go into to the county's general fund, except for about $50,000 annually that goes toward the licensing office's expenses, county financial officer Alicia Holland has said.

Eliminating the fee altogether would require tax increases, spending cuts or some combination of both to make up the loss of revenue, county administrator Gary Kubic has said.

At a committee meeting Jan. 6, Councilman Jerry Stewart emphasized that the county license only applies to business conducted in unincorporated parts of the county. Business conducted within Port Royal, Bluffton, Hilton Head Island and Beaufort would still be subject to municipal license requirements, which the county does not control.

To learn more: For more information on the Beaufort County's business licenses, go to www.bcgov.net/departments/finance/business-license.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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