Council votes to cut fees for small­est busi­nesses

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - ELISE STOLTE es­tolte@post­media.com twit­ter.com/es­tolte

Council voted to cut fees for pho­tog­ra­phers, ac­coun­tants and other mi­nor home-based busi­ness op­er­a­tors Tues­day and launch a re­view to re-ex­am­ine what it charges all other busi­nesses.

Th­ese small busi­nesses — which have less than one visit a day from a client and no vis­ual im­pact to the neigh­bour­hood — were be­ing charged the high­est startup costs in the re­gion.

“I saw an ur­gent need to re­duce those fees,” said Mayor Don Ive­son, who cam­paigned on re­duc­ing or elim­i­nat­ing fees for th­ese small busi­nesses. “We’re charg­ing too much. It’s a bar­rier for peo­ple start­ing busi­nesses.”

Start­ing in 2019, city of­fi­cials will elim­i­nate the $125 de­vel­op­ment per­mit re­quire­ment, leav­ing the $235 an­nual busi­ness li­cence and $53 home-based busi­ness fee in place.

They will also con­sult with busi­ness own­ers to see what in­cen­tives they would like to en­cour­age them to reg­is­ter, whether that’s sim­ply re­duc­ing the fee or of­fer­ing more startup sup­port. That work will likely take two years, with changes to the busi­ness fee struc­ture com­ing in 2020.

Ed­mon­ton cur­rently makes about $10 mil­lion off its busi­ness li­cence fees, sev­eral times what it costs to run the pro­gram.

When that news about Ed­mon­ton’s high home-based busi­ness fees broke two weeks ago, many other busi­ness own­ers piped up on so­cial me­dia, frus­trated Ed­mon­ton charges what it does.

That an­nual $235 fee in ad­di­tion to prop­erty tax is just ir­ri­tat­ing, said small busi­ness owner Dana DiTo­maso, fol­low­ing up on her so­cial me­dia com­ments with an in­ter­view.

“I get taxes. I’m not against pay­ing money, but what am I get­ting for it?”

Her mar­ket­ing busi­ness with seven em­ploy­ees re­quires no in­spec­tions; it didn’t need a li­cence when DiTo­maso ran a sim­i­lar busi­ness in Hamil­ton or Toronto.

City of­fi­cials said they need the li­cence to en­sure peo­ple reg­is­ter and they know what types of busi­nesses are op­er­at­ing in the city.

When the own­ers ap­ply for a li­cence, it also gives of­fi­cials an op­por­tu­nity to re­view other rules and per­mits a spe­cific type of busi­ness might need.

Re­quir­ing a li­cence also means it can be re­voked if a busi­ness is op­er­at­ing in a way that causes safety or nui­sance is­sues for the neigh­bour­hood.

That ex­tra fee for home-based busi­nesses is meant to en­sure fair­ness with busi­ness own­ers who choose to open an of­fice or shop out­side their home.

Coun. Bev Esslinger said that’s also some­thing Ed­mon­ton should re­view. Home-based busi­nesses have other ben­e­fits for the city, in­clud­ing us­ing less re­sources.

“We have peo­ple work­ing at home, not (com­mut­ing) on the roads.”

I saw an ur­gent need to re­duce those fees ... We’re charg­ing too much. It’s a bar­rier for peo­ple start­ing busi­nesses.

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