Supervisors consider changes to Gloucester’s business tax
Gloucester business owners who saw a dramatic increase in their BPOL (Business, Professional and Occupational License) tax this year may see some relief, as the county’s board of supervisors discussed options Tuesday night for providing such relief during its work session on the budget in the colonial courthouse.
At-large supervisor Ashley Chriscoe suggested modeling the BPOL tax approach after Middlesex County, which caps the amount of the BPOL tax it charges at $2,500 for those businesses with gross receipts amounting to $2 million or less and $5,000 for those businesses with gross receipts over $2 million.
“I think we should leave our rates alone if capping is a viable option,” Chriscoe said. “Also, we need to see if there is any mechanism for relief and see about getting some of this money back to these people.”
During last week’s board of supervisors meeting, more than half a dozen business owners spoke about how shocked they were when they learned from their accountants the substantial increases in BPOL tax they were required to pay this year. Several physicians operating on Main Street saw 340-480 percent increases in their tax from what it was they filed last year. Several spoke also of how frustrating it was that their colleagues who work under the umbrella of Riverside, a nonprofit, are not required to pay BPOL tax at all.
County Attorney Ted Wilmot did some research into the matters and said that those physicians working under Riverside could not be taxed BPOL because they are indeed employees of a nonprofit organization. However, Wilmot did say that state code does allow localities to set caps on various categories of businesses.
Wilmot also said it was likely that the county would be able to change its BPOL rates for 2017, if it chooses to go that route, and refund those who would have overpaid. However, he said he would have to check with the county Commissioner of the Revenue and the Treasurer to see if it would be feasible to do so. Also, if the rates are changed, the matter would have to go before a public hearing and rates would have to be set no later than June.
Chriscoe said he received a phone call from a financial advisor who operates in both Gloucester and Henrico. He said this person’s BPOL tax increased $5,500 in Gloucester. “He told me if something doesn’t change, he would just run his business out of Henrico,” Chriscoe said. “He just won’t have a presence in Gloucester anymore.”
Petsworth district supervisor Michael Winebarger said, “I’m a businessman, and I don’t mind paying taxes. But this was rolled out and foisted on people and it was a shock. People aren’t saying they don’t want to pay their business license fees; they just want to pay a fair tax.”
With the increase in the BPOL tax, Gloucester saw additional revenue of about $290,000. Therefore, if the board decides to change the BPOL tax or cap the rates, it will have to come up with a way to find a portion of that revenue loss in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018.
“I don’t think it’s going to be as large (of an impact) as some anticipate,” Chriscoe said. “I’m guessing $75,000 to $100,000.”