Bill would provide some tax relief for small businesses

Posted: March 01, 2013

SMALL BUSINESSES that are getting hit twice under the Actual Value Inititative, the city's new property-tax system, could get some relief if a measure introduced Thursday in City Council passes.

The measure deals with a levy on businesses called the use-and-occupancy tax, which Council increased last year to 5.5 percent of the value of the portion of a property used for business. Under AVI, which is based on market values, 2,321 small commercial properties will see property-tax hikes of more than $1,000, which means their occupancy-tax bills are likely to jump, too.

The legislation, introduced by Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez would exempt the first $2,000 from the occupancy tax for every commercial and industrial property. That would go a long way in aiding small businesses, especially along neighborhood commercial corridors, Sanchez said.

"Let's make sure we have some relief for the folks in the bottom. And in this particular case they represent a small base of the money, although they represent a large portion of use-and-occupancy taxpayers," Sanchez said.

Despite the proposed relief, AVI would mean an increase in the total take from the occupancy tax, which now goes directly to the school district. Sanchez' bill would divert about a quarter of the tax's revenue to the city.

Meanwhile, Councilman Brian O'Neill introduced a bill that would authorize the city to treat an automatic re-enrollment of 15,642 low-income seniors participating in a tax-freeze program as an application for the homestead exemption, which lowers assessments by $30,000.

O'Neill said this would help with the low homestead-application rate, which the Daily News reported Thursday. More than 100,000 eligible homeowners, mostly in low-income areas, have yet to apply for the exemption.

In other news, Council unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. that would expand the law mandating that employers who contract with the city pay workers at least 150 percent the federal minimum wage and provide health benefits and paid sick leave for full-time employees. The bill increases the number of companies to which it applies by lowering the minimum number of employees from 25 to five.

The measure will now include airport workers, some of whom appeared before Council sharing stories of low wages and poor working conditions.

"It simply says that if we're going to provide taxpayer money to contractors, to franchises or for leases, or for concessions," Goode said, "we're not going to subsidize poverty-wage jobs."

" @Jan_Ransom


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