- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

A D.C. Council member has proposed a bill that would reduce government paperwork and exempt many small businesses from having to get a general license to operate in the District.
Harold Brazil, Democrat at-large, said his bill, which is scheduled for a hearing Sept. 17, would exempt any business making less than $20,000 from obtaining a master business license, the required operating permit.
"The bill helps reduce some of the red tape and increased regulatory burdens on smaller businesses," said Mr. Brazil, chairman of the Committee on Economic Development, which is in charge of the master business license program.
The bill helps smaller businesses, such as nonprofits, landlords, architects, legal and accounting firms, that operate part time or are home-based, Mr. Brazil said.
"We don't need to hold the same standards for these smaller businesses that we do for the larger commercial businesses," he said.
About 94 percent of the city's employers are small businesses employing about half of the private work force, according to the Small Business Administration.
Gina Douglas, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which processes the licenses, said the program was started last year as a way for the city to track businesses in the District.
"We didn't know who was operating in the city limits prior to this program, and the results are still sketchy," she said.
The license is a consolidation of applications that a business needs to start up, Ms. Douglas said. "The existing businesses can get all of their extension applications, like a tobacco-sales license, under one application."
It comes with a $25 initial fee and a $5 fee for each extension or additional license added to the master business license.
For smaller businesses the license is extra paperwork, Mr. Brazil said. "These business owners are lower-end on the profit scale and don't require as many permits and licenses as larger, so there's no need for them to apply."
The legislation is another effort to offer small businesses more incentives to start in the District.
The most recent survey in 1997 from Dun & Bradstreet, a business database company, rated Washington 23rd out of 35 Northeast cities for starting small businesses.
"Small businesses and home-based businesses are essential to the D.C. economy. We want to make the city more appealing to draw new businesses in," he said.
Businesses have until Dec. 31 to register for the master business licenses.
They face a $500 fine for not applying.

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