Town Council denies Kigre's appeal in business-license dispute

dburley@islandpacket.comJuly 14, 2014 

KIGRE.COM

After the S.C. Supreme Court rejected Kigre Inc.'s attempt to avoid paying Hilton Head Island business license fees, the laser-component manufacturer continues to fight the town.

Town Council on Friday denied Hilton Head-based Kigre's request to change how it is classified on its business license. Such a change would cut the company's license fees in half, according to Tom Taylor, an attorney for Kigre.

Town staff attorney Brian Hulbert said the town does not disclose what companies pay in business license fees because it's based on annual income.

Kigre argued the town has misclassified the company as being in a business category that does not reflect what it manufactures. Kigre is classified in the medical-equipment category but produces nothing of the sort, Taylor says.

Town staff members have said Kigre has not provided the information needed to be considered for another category. The town has been forced to use information from the company's website, Hulbert said.

Kigre representatives disagree. They argue the town wants information to prove Kigre does not manufacture medical equipment.

"How can you prove a negative? You can't," Kigre chief operating officer Jeff Myers said.

Council members sided with the town, saying staff "appropriately determined the classification based on the information provided by Kigre."

Taylor said Kigre would appeal the decision in court.

He said the decision was irrational and based on "the animosity that has developed between town staff and executives at Kigre."

The town and Kigre have long been at odds.

In June, the state Supreme Court upheld the town's business-license fee after an eight-year legal battle with Kigre.

The court ruled the town has not violated the U.S. Constitution's interstate commerce clause by charging Kigre a fee based upon its gross income. The company had argued that since most of its income is derived from out-of-state customers, it should not have to pay the full amount.

The town sued the company in 2006, arguing that Kigre's income from sales outside South Carolina is not exempt because the company does not pay a business license fee anywhere else.

Taylor said Kigre has petitioned the state Supreme Court for a re-hearing. If that is denied, Kigre will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.

Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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