St. Charles Collecting Business License Fees It Is Not Authorized To Collect
While researching Tax Increment Financing, I visited the St. Charles city website. While there (it is a very good municipal website), I noticed the business license link. So, I clicked on it (as I am want to do) and was greeted with this page:
Per City Ordinance (Chapter 110), anyone doing business in the City of St. Charles must have a business license issued by the City of St. Charles. This includes:
- All businesses with a St. Charles address
- Residents working from their homes
- Out-of-city businesses such as contractors, sub-contractors, delivery businesses, etc.
- All professionals
There is just one problem with these statements; they aren’t accurate. First, there are several occupations commonly considered “professionals” that state law specifically excludes from local licensing requirements. Lawyers, CPAs, doctors, dentists, and several other professionals are exempt from local business license fee requirements.
Furthermore, there are other types of “out-of-city” businesses that are exempt from licensing fees unless they fit the first example and have a specific city address. While the examples detailed on the website (contractors, etc.) are correct, other businesses, such as insurance brokers and engineers, are exempt from local licensing unless they have an office in St. Charles.
I bet there are a lot of cities requiring the same thing, and attempt to collect business license fees from firms that don’t know they are exempt. Does the typical land surveyor know he or she is exempt from having a business license? Perhaps. I bet it is less that cities attempt to collect the license fee from exempt businesses as much as they allow people from firms that don’t know better to pay for the license without telling them otherwise.
Is it possible that city officials tell those who are exempt from local licenses that they are so exempt when they arrive to pay for the license? Sure, but that is putting a lot of faith in individual employees to correct the misstatements on the website.
The city of Saint Louis does a good job of displaying a link to the exemptions on the website of the license collector. St. Charles, and probably many other cities, could stand to take a (web)page from that. I am a big fan of the new mayor of St. Charles. Hopefully, her new administation can correct this soon.