Smithfield wants all businesses registered at Town Hall

Smithfield wants all businesses registered at Town Hall

Too many closed businesses leave taxes unpaid, say officials

SMITHFIELD - Officials will try once again this year to win General Assembly approval of a bill that would require local businesses to register annually at Town Hall, with permission to operate denied in cases where tax payments are delinquent.

The town already requires registration under a municipal ordinance, but wants the additional backing that a state law would provide.

A similar bill died in the House of Representatives last year after Smithfield Rep. Thomas Winfield declined to push for it, saying he felt it was anti-business.

He told The Valley Breeze & Observer this week that he is working with Tax Assessor Suzanne Kogut on language that he could support, especially inclusion of an appeals process.

Winfield said he is also opposed to the $5 registration fee imposed by the ordinance, but "I can live with it."

The local ordinance is designed to ensure that a record exists of all businesses in town, because in the past some have closed their doors without having paid taxes.

Officials say they also want to avoid situations where tax-delinquent businesses close and then re-open with different names.

The registration requirement does not apply to businesses that need special licenses to operate, such as liquor and victualling establishments, since they are already on record.

Last year the town wrote off some $1.8 million in delinquent business taxes that went unpaid between 1981 and 2002.

State law prohibits municipalities from enforcing collection of taxes on assessments that are more than 10 years old.

Businesses are assessed annually for "tangibles," which include fixtures and equipment, but not inventory. The current tax rate is $61.06 per thousand dollars of valuation.

In another matter related to taxes, the council agreed to hold a workshop at 7 p.m. on April 3 at which municipal department heads will discuss their budget requests for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The council will hold a public hearing on its proposed budget May 13 in preparation for the annual Financial Town Meeting June 12.