Thursday, September 15, 2022

Local Business License Renewal Center Streamlines the Business License Process

By Caitlin Cothran, Manager for Local Revenue Services, Municipal Association of SC 

The Municipal Association of South Carolina’s Local Revenue Services offered business license officials 10 opportunities this summer to attend in-person training sessions throughout the state to learn more about the Local Business License Renewal Center. The trainings prepared current users and new users to operate the online system. 

The sessions involved many hours explaining the system and helping staff, but our staff really enjoyed spending one-on-one time with business licensing staff all over the state. They brought us great questions and they have learned a tremendous amount about how to make the Renewal Center work smoothly since we first began testing the software years ago. 
Officials join the Renewal Center training for the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments at Hanahan City Hall on August 18.  

Never heard of the Renewal Center? 

In recent years, the Municipal Association developed a statewide online portal for business license renewals. Act 176, the SC Business License Tax Standardization Act, which passed in 2020, requires that this system to be hosted by the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office. Municipalities and counties that levy a business license tax must offer the Renewal Center for businesses to use to pay their tax. For these jurisdictions, using this free software requires that they adopt a number of standard business license practices which are also required by Act 176

What do the Renewal Center requirements mean for staff?

While Act 176 requires municipalities and counties to use the Renewal Center, it does not require that businesses use it. They still have the option to renew by mail, phone or in person. 

If the business chooses to renew its business license using the online portal, the city, town or county must accept renewal applications through it. They cannot require the business to apply for a license another way if it chooses to renew its license through the Renewal Center. Any city, town or county that is not accepting renewals and payments through the online system is not following state law. 

What does the Renewal Center mean for city and town councils? 

Councilmembers should know that Act 176 standardized business license practices across the state. This makes it much easier for businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions to do business around the state, since now they have only one renewal deadline and one place to handle them. 

One of the standardization requirements of Act 176 is that local jurisdictions update the class schedules they use for business license tax calculations every two years. The Municipal Association creates this update, which then receives approval from the SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, and must be passed by ordinance by each municipal or county council. To ensure compliance with Act 176, the Association recommends that councils pass its model business license ordinance, which includes the current class schedule as an appendix. 

What does the Renewal Center mean for businesses? 

The Local Business License Tax Renewal Center means that there is now one central location to renew and pay all local business license taxes, but it’s important to remember this is for renewals only — businesses cannot use it to establish new business licenses. When applying for new licenses, businesses need to go directly to the licensing jurisdictions. The Association created a message for cities and towns to use when explaining to businesses the key points of Act 176 and its effects

More resources 

Friday, September 2, 2022

Hometown Economic Development Grant Applications Due September 30

Applications are currently open for the Municipal Association’s Hometown Economic Development Grants, available to cities and towns for projects that make a positive impact on the quality of life in the communities, but the deadline of September 30 is fast approaching. 

Since the Association first offered the grants in 2016, it has awarded 68 grants to 55 cities and towns, ranging from small communities to several large cities. Direct grant awards have totaled $1.2 million in funding. The grants — along with all matching funds received by the cities and towns — add up to more than $1.7 million. 

Projects funded through the grants have been transformational in many ways, from master plan documents to parks, façade grant programs, farmers markets and other initiatives. The Town of Lowrys used its funds to establish its first-ever permanent town hall

The City of Walterboro used funding for engineering costs for its Walterboro Wildlife Center, which went on to win a Municipal Association Achievement Award in 2020. Orangeburg used its grant to design its open-air market and pavilion in its downtown, a project that won Main Street South Carolina’s Outstanding New Construction award in 2021.

Applying for a Hometown Economic Development Grant 

The 2022 HEDG cycle will award as many as 12 grants of up to $25,000 each. 

HEDG project proposals must make a positive, measurable and sustainable economic impact on a community. Some project types are excluded, as explained in the full eligibility rules on the application. 

Those interested should apply online by Friday, September 30 at 5 p.m. The application and grant awards have several key requirements: 
  • The city or town council must pass a resolution in support of the grant application. 
  • Cities and towns that receive a grant must provide matching funds. 
  • Grant recipients must also submit progress reports and provide financial details about how they spent grant funds. 
To keep HEDG equitable and effective, the program awards grants among several population categories, with most awards going to cities and towns with populations below 5,000 according to the 2020 census. The population size determines the amount of funding available for recipients.