City Council acts to change business taxes

The fate of the city's renegade raccoons stole most of the attention at Thursday's City Council session, but the members otherwise managed to pass two bills to reform the city's business tax structure.

One of those bills - sponsored by Bill Green and Maria Quiñones Sánchez - has been in the works for three years and would dramatically change the widely reviled business privilege tax.

The second, sponsored by Councilman James F. Kenney, would eliminate most fees for starting a business and would give start-ups a two-year reprieve from business taxes, as long as they hired city residents.

Both bills were approved by the Finance Committee last week after the sponsors reached an agreement with the Nutter administration to phase in the cuts over the next four years. The measure could cost the city treasury millions if not replaced by other revenue.

The fees and taxes long have been blamed for hamstringing the city in the competition with the suburbs and other metro areas for jobs.

Joseph Mahoney, the executive vice president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday that the reforms have been at "very top of the chamber's legislative priorities for many years."

"These bills send the right message to current and potential employers that Philadelphia is open for business," he said.

The Green-Sánchez measure would provide a $100,000 exemption on the gross-receipts portion of the business privilege tax, and businesses would not have to pay the net-income portion on the first $100,000 in sales.

The bill also would make businesses responsible for paying taxes only on sales within the city, a game-changing reform meant to retain and attract large companies.

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"I ran for office four years ago and I am running today because I love this City... My campaign theme in 2007 and still today - 'beholden to none, accountable to all' - reflects my commitment to be a strong, independent voice for all Philadelphians." - Bill Green