City could slash small business fees

Seventy-one business fees are on the verge of elimination from The City’s books as part of a larger effort to remove the complex process of starting a small business in San Francisco.

There are more than 60,000 small businesses in The City, employing the majority of workers in San Francisco and generating billions of dollars in sales each year.

But the road to opening a small business is pocked with a bevy of bureaucratic fees and permit requirements, according to business advocates. Many are outdated, erroneous and often ignored. And though some are not honored or enforced, they are often seen as a deterrent to small-business owners who find the bureaucratic tangle of rules and restrictions overwhelming, according to advocates and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu.

In order to begin simplifying the process, Chiu plans to introduce legislation that would strike 71 fees from the books. A segment of those targeted for removal are not used and others only generate small amounts of money.

Business advocates have long complained about the number of fees, the challenging process of figuring out what permits are necessary, and the time it takes to obtain them.

Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California, said a comprehensive review and overhaul of the complex permit system is “something that’s been overdue for years.”

He said that “we’d like to see something that has an impact,” and Hauge is optimistic that Chiu is going after the “low-hanging fruit” first before tackling other fees, such as the elimination of the permit requirement for having candles on dining tables in restaurants.

During a recent Small Business Commission meeting, Chiu said he’s working with the Office of Small Business to identify and eliminate “those fees that none of us are really sure why they are being collected.” The agency also will work with the city controller “to think
about streamlining the other fees we have, to rationalize them, hopefully make them easier for businesses to pay them.”

The fees Chiu will propose to eliminate are those sitting on the books but not used, like the $311 permit for poker. And those that generate up to a few thousand dollars, like the $749 permit for candy stores with an inventory worth more than $1,000. In total, the fees on the chopping block generated just $21,772 in revenue during fiscal year 2008-09.

Chiu said he started a business and understands “the incredible hassle” entrepreneurs must endure.

“It’s about making San Francisco and The City a business-friendly environment during the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression,” he said.

 

Simplifying the process

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu wants to “clean the books” and eliminate 71 fees to start making it easier to open a small business in San Francisco. Fees on the chopping block include:

Fee Issuing department Fee amount in fiscal year 2008-09
Dance hall keeper    Entertainment Commission     $423
Rodeo exhibition and show    Entertainment Commission     $713
Funeral procession escort    Police    $267
Poker    Police    $311
Candy stores
with $1,000-plus inventory   
Public Health     $749
Mobile caterer     Police    $923
Fortune teller     Police    $425.84
Balloon or kite advertising     Police    $436.18

Source: Supervisor David Chiu’s office

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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