Act 176 is Making Local Business Licenses Business-FriendlyMay 10, 2022 03:43PM ● By Todd Glover
For many years, South Carolina’s business owners raised concerns with state legislators about the inconsistencies and complicated processes that they experienced when obtaining business licenses from local governments around the state.
Legislators put in incredibly long hours working with the business community as well as cities to remedy these persistent issues.
All of that work paid off in 2020 with the passage of the S.C. Business License Tax Standardization Act, or Act 176. A great win for businesses and local governments alike, Act 176 streamlined the business license process, making it so that a business that seeks to renew a license in any taxing jurisdiction across South Carolina only goes through one simple licensing process.
Business licensing is an incredibly valuable part of the way our state does business. For many local governments, the licenses generate revenue that enables them to adequately deliver the services that businesses and residents expect — utilities, police and fire protection, sanitation, planning and zoning, even cultural offerings and recreation.
The licenses pay for the things that create valuable and attractive places to do business. Still, local governments need to issue and renew business licenses in a way that eliminates as many barriers to entry as possible, and that’s what Act 176 accomplishes.
Previously, business owners who operated across multiple cities and counties had to navigate a maze of multiple business license due dates. With Act 176, there is only one license due date for everyone: April 30. The legislation also created a standard method of calculating business taxes based on the business’ income and industry.
Perhaps the most exciting change is the establishment of the Local Business License Renewal Center, an online payment portal where businesses can renew all of their local business licenses at once. This project, which can be seen at www.locablrenewal.com, greatly improves the ease of reporting, renewing, and paying business license taxes.
Businesses can use the renewal portal to update their information, report revenue, apply deductions, and upload necessary documents. Through it, they can track their renewals and respond to requests for feedback from cities and towns. The existing methods for renewing licenses are still available too, like paying the taxes in person, by phone, or by mail.
Most of the provisions of Act 176 went into effect at the beginning of 2022, meaning that cities and towns had the 2021 calendar year to perform the large amounts of technical work needed to comply with the law. I’m proud to say that municipal elected officials and staff worked very hard on this throughout the year.
The Municipal Association of S.C. also went to great lengths to help them achieve compliance, and to help get an entire state of licensing officials all on the same page.
Business license standardization has been a tremendous undertaking — many years in the making — but it’s been worth it to reach our current status. The effort will play a vital role in keeping local government in South Carolina effective and business-friendly.
Todd Glover is the executive director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina.