The lifespan of a District business license would double under a plan the D.C. Council will consider on Thursday, but a worker at a major business group warned the proposal could unwittingly hurt entrepreneurs.
"We're trying to create a more business-friendly environment here in the city," said at-large Councilman Michael Brown, the author of the plan to allow licenses to last for four years. "A lot of the complaints that we get, particularly from small-business owners, are that they literally have to leave their businesses to go reregister."
Max Farrow, director of communications for the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, said his organization "is, and has always been, very supportive of extending business licenses to four years."
But Shannel Hicks, a program assistant at the Chamber, said the shift could lead to new problems.
"Half of the business owners already forget to renew it every two years, so expanding it to four years would make it even harder," Hicks said. "You'd be surprised at how many business owners are not as aware and in tune with their businesses as they should be."
In the District, a two-year business license currently carries a $77 application fee, along with separate charges depending on the type of company. If Brown's plan moved forward but the city didn't change its fees, its income from business licenses could fall by half.
Mayor Vincent Gray's administration said it opposed Brown's existing proposal because of its potential impact on the District's coffers.
"We don't support it as currently drafted due to the fee structure, but we think the general idea is worth exploring," said mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, who added that a new task force focused on regulatory reform will consider potential changes.
Brown said, though, that he's committed to ensuring the District's bottom line doesn't plummet and that he'll work to adjust licensing fees as needed.
"We don't want a negative fiscal impact," Brown said. "We also want to be in line with other jurisdictions. The whole point is for us to be more competitive, so we don't want to raise the fees too high."
In Fairfax County, business license taxes are based on a company's revenue; a business with gross receipts of $75,000 would pay an annual fee of $50. Arlington County's system is similar.