Expert discusses whether self-employed workers face more government hurdles

(The Center Square) — As Georgia officials look to lessen business regulations, one change policymakers could weigh is a state law allowing local jurisdictions to levy licensing fees on home-based businesses.

State lawmakers passed legislation roughly 30 years ago allowing cities to impose business and occupation requirements. While lawmakers have revised the law, local governments may levy and collect occupation taxes on any businesses with an office in the jurisdiction and require business owners who operate out of their homes to obtain an occupancy permit.

Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed, spoke exclusively with The Center Square about some issues facing businesses.

“The number one asset that almost every small business owner has is their time, their expertise,” Hall said. “When we talk about taxes in D.C., we talk about access to capital, the Small Business Administration, access to affordable health care, [and] retirement options.

“It always comes back to how can we make this more simple?” Hall added. “How can we reduce the time it takes to comply with regulations or the time it takes to take advantage of a benefit like retirement or a tax deduction? How can we reduce the time? Because at the end of the day, the time a small business owner has — that’s what is necessary to create a new job, to get one more customer. It always comes down to freeing up time because that is the number one asset for the smallest of small business owners.”

Hall recognized that a common complaint of self-employed businesses is the regulations they sometimes face.

“It certainly doesn’t apply in every jurisdiction,” Hall said. “Cities, county, state, the nation — all of those governmental entities have budgets, and they’re trying their best to raise money any way they can. When I think in terms of a small business owner having to pay some license fee to operate out of their home, it seems unfair, and I would be happy to debate that because I do believe it’s unnecessary.”

However, he noted that larger entities also face licensing requirements in the cities and counties where they operate.

“I tend to be a small government-type individual on a personal level,” Hall said. “But I do recognize that government does cost money; they do provide services for us, and they’re important services. So, recognizing that there are taxes, there are license fees is part of doing business. I don’t think that alone is necessarily unfair to a small business owner because I think the big businesses pay that also.”