Caddo Parish opts to study occupational license fee relief

Angel Albring | BIZ. Magazine

Caddo Parish Commissioners referred a proposed ordinance that sought to provide financial relief to small businesses outside of the Shreveport city limits to the Economic Development Committee for further review.

Proposed by Caddo Parish Commissioner Jim Taliaferro, the legislation, if approved, would suspend the Parish Occupational License Tax for the year 2021 due to hardships that area businesses are facing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of our smaller and medium-sized businesses have been hurt very badly regarding the loss of income, having to layoff or, unfortunately, fire people or furlough them,” Taliaferro said. “I thought that this was something that the Caddo Parish Commission as a whole could do to kind of ease some of their financial burdens.”

Hayley Barnett, Finance Director of the Caddo Parish Commission, explained that businesses pay different fee amounts depending on the type of business they operate.

“There’s different tables for different types of businesses. You have retail, wholesale, fuel, and depending on their amount of gross revenue, that (determines) how much the occupational license is,” Barnett said.

Barnett said the base rate is $50 and that the majority of Caddo businesses pay $50 or $100 as their annual fee.

The proposed ordinance would impact only those businesses outside of the city limits.

“So, we’re not really hitting the majority of the businesses which would be inside the city limits of Shreveport,” Johnson said. “More of your larger businesses that are outside the city limits of Shreveport, the only one I can think of that’s real big is Walmart and they had a banner year.”

Barnett said that this ordinance would cost the parish about $255,000 in revenue loss if the parish waived all license fees for 2021 for all the business occupants outside the city limits that currently pay the $50- $100 fee.

“That’s really not going to impact the small businesses,” Johnson said. “(Waiving) the $50 it’s not going to help them too much. I think if we’re going to target something, we should target something that’s really going to help them.”

Barnett said that less than 10 businesses have already paid their occupational fee for 2021 and that if the legislation passes, those businesses would be refunded.

Caddo Parish Commissioner Steven Jackson said that “it’s important to get some kind of help to small businesses” but the commission needed more information to help businesses in the way they need it. He also wanted to “tighten up” the language of the legislation and differentiate between the fee being “suspended” or “waived.”

“Words have meaning, and with suspend versus waived, I would prefer the waiver, rather than suspension. Suspension means (they’d) have to make it up in 2022, and my whole intention is just to waive it and give them a little bit of a break,” Taliaferro said.

Jackson recommended remanding the legislation to the Economic Development Committee for review.