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Jan Norman on Small Business ~ News and practical tips for and by Orange County small business owners

Amnesty bags 1,300 unlicensed businesses

April 10th, 2010, 12:00 pm · 38 Comments · posted by Jan Norman, small-business columnist

The owners of 1,300 unlicensed businesses have paid $500,000 to get business licenses in Santa Ana under a business license tax amnesty program that started in February, the city announced.

Santa Ana had 25,708 business licenses as of Jan. 31, said Christine Duarte, treasurer manager for the city. But the Franchise Tax Board sent Santa Ana a list of 15,000 businesses that filed Schedule C income from a business forms with their income tax returns that weren’t among the licensed businesses.

“There were so many individuals who did not have business licenses and didn’t know they needed one, and we didn’t want to overwhelm them with taxes and penalties,” Duarte said.

She said she was unaware of any other Orange County cities with business license amnesty programs but similar amnesties had been successful in San Jose and Los Angeles.

However, other cities might consider such an amnesty because so many are struggling with finances because of the recession and all of them get a list from the Franchise Tax Board of business-income reporters within their jurisdictions.

In March, Santa Ana was facing a budget deficit of as much as $25 million. Money from business license taxes goes into the general fund.

The business license tax in Santa Ana ranges from $200 to $10,000 but averages around $350 based on the type of business, number of employees and gross receipts.

Businesses must have a license in Santa Ana if they do any business in town, even if they are not based in the city.

The amnesty, which ends April 30, allows owners to buy a license without penalty or interest, which can be as much as the license itself. Click here for more information or call 714-647-5257. Licenses can be bought at Santa Ana City Hall Finance division, 20 Civic Center Plaza.

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Posted in: EconomyGovernment
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  • bloodinthestreets says:

    “Businesses must have a license in Santa Ana if they do any business in town, even if they are not based in the city.”

    So, if you were a plumber, electrician, mobile dog groomer, painter, glassier, interior designer, . . . based out of some other nearby city . . . you’d have to pay off the Santa Ana city gang . . . . in order to continue.

    Wow – what a crock of junk ! (You know, there are cities nearby that have no business license fees?)

    Is it any wonder that Santa Ana looks the way it does? All those un-groomed dogs running around? ; )

    Tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax

    • Tom says:

      The city of Indio requires a tax payment if you DELIVER product on your turck into their city. Does not matter if you are just dropping off and not performing a service in their city. Scam of the century.

    • That’s right, some of those contractors have dozens of business licenses. If a city charges too much, they refuse to do work there, but in this economy, most can’t afford to turn down work.

      Also, some cities require a business license of people who rent a hotel or office conference room to teach a seminar. Those cities monitor calendar listings or ads is local publications to catch them.

      Jan Norman

  • 100% American says:

    Do you have a list of those cities that have no business license fees?

  • 100% American says:

    What about the panhandlers (my kids call them hobos!) and the gardeners? The gardeners don’t get a 1099 so they just have to be ‘honest’ and state what they make. You know darn well that they don’t state everything, and the one that works in SA also works in other cities and he gets paid mostly in cash. I’ll bet he makes $100,000 a year. It’s possible that he doesn’t pay taxes at all, because I know that he isn’t licensed. I really don’t care because the cities are taxing us so much for everything else that I don’t mind when someone gets the better of the cities!

    • Tomasina says:

      I quit hiring anyone that does not have a license to work – gardners, contractors, painters, house cleaning etc. because I pay so much in taxes I am tired of seeing these people in the stores pulling out hundreds of dollars from their pockets and paying for their groceries or shopping at the malls, knowing that they are not paying taxes. I also give anyone I hire a 1099 at the end of the year. I think the city should cruz the streets and stop and ask these gardners if they have a license and if not give them a ticket and make them show up to get a license and pay a fine. The free ride is over, we cannot afford to not have them pay taxes.

  • jerry brown says:

    dont vote for jerry brown we have enough problems in california.

  • DARYL says:

    Yeah right! They didn`t know they needed one? Gimme a break!!!!

  • Bob Holt says:

    I have a feeling that most of this is the underground economy. Americans are just following the lead of the illegal alien business community of why should I pay taxes.

    • Dina says:

      Yep you nailed it.

    • You may be right, Bob, but usually the underground economy is defined by people who don’t pay income or payroll (social security and Medicare) taxes. These people claimed business revenues on their income tax.

      Jan Norman

      • Bob Holt says:

        Jan, I agree with you to a point, but there are so many small business out there that claim business revenues and don’t have business licenses or even claim some of the people that work for them. Even though these people pay some taxes I still look at them as the underground economy. When small business picks and chooses what taxes they want to pay, but has no problem using all of the public services, I have to put them in the underground economy category .

  • DARYL says:

    exactly bob!!!

  • Dina says:

    More amnesty, Oh, I didn’t know…Make them pay back taxes too.

  • octimes says:

    Gee. you really didn’t think those street vendors had licenses or paid taxes, did you? I’m a business owner, and we get audited and have walk ins by city officials. THis is such a scam by government.

    Tax the rich business owners, ignore the illegal immigrant owners.

    My favorite? Restaurants get cited for health issues but a guy can pull up a roach coach and start cooking tacos. Only in America.
    Double standard USA

    • Auntie Illegal says:

      If you stopped calling them IMMIGRANTS would be a start. THE ARE ILLEGAL ALIENS. According to my Representative’s office, Ken Calvert , that all you need to do is call ICE when you see these ILLEGAL ALIENS and report them. Or if that doesn’t work call the local police department and demand they enforce our immigration laws.

      If you come up with a good answer let us all know

    • Roach Coach Driver says:

      Trust me roach coaches are required to maintain the same health standards that restaurants do.

      The health department is crawling up their backends with huge flashlights all the time.

      Don’t kid yourself into thinking that they get preferential treatment. The food may be lousy, but they don’t get cut any slack.

  • Richard Deight says:

    And here I thought Los Angeles was the only city that required a business license for doing business within the city, even if the company has no physical presence in that city.

    What government will not stoop to in its insatiable quest for revenue. Why should anyone need the blessing of local government for “permission” to earn a living?

    What next? Requiring Cub Scouts or Brownies to have a license to set up a lemonade stand?

    This vendetta could have been stopped dead in its tracks if enough people just said no. But people are sheep and ask, “How high?” when government says, “Jump.”

  • theCanimalsHusband says:

    Why should undocumented immigrants have to pay taxes?

  • matt H. says:

    I tried to start a business a while back , I went in paid my license fees
    and questioned the person of whom I handed over my money .
    I asked them are they from this city , answer was no
    I asked have you ever owned or started a business , answer was no

    here is this person that im giving money to that knows nothing about
    business but taking checks , the only service I got from this was
    getting inspected by the fire dpt.

    so I think , there could huge opportunities for a city to pay someone
    to work at city hall and council people on starting/running business,
    of course one would have to know the business of the area and have started a business or businesses in that area .

    so when some dumb cluck shells out money for a license they can
    actually easily get that money back just possibly from the person
    at city hall . this could easily be a very good paying job and worth
    the high pay .
    employment / business are huge factors on if a city fails or
    prospers , I think city hall should put more effort in hiring experienced local type business coaches not a tax but a valuable service …

  • BILLSaidIt says:

    Keep our city GREEN –Don’t tell them anything.

  • Auntie Illegal says:

    These people KNOW they need licenses. They just play the VICTEEEEM when they get caught. Like Tiger and Jesse. Don’t let this ‘me no know” believe me when you walk away they don’t give a crap either

    California is not TIJUANA, if you don’t know the rules, stay out of the game. The taxpayers are sick and tired of picking up the slack

  • f4tweet says:

    Now if you can get the other 10,000 to register. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA1

  • t says:

    WTF? A business liscence to sell product in another city? That is hard to believe, so I won’t be volunteering any money to Indio for product delivered. Phooey!

  • NOstrodomus says:

    Several cities operate the same way. As a business, you decide whether or not it is worth the fee. In most cases, you can ding them back for it.

  • I AM RIGHT! says:

    My wife is a schoolteacher for the SAUSD. The city of Santa Ana wants her to pay for a business license. She taught a teacher training for a collaboration between the school district and UCI. They claim she is an independent contractor, even though she is under the direction of the school district. We are trying to appeal, but the city doesn’t return calls or emails. Let’s see what they decide-I am sure they will decied she needs to pay!

  • JohnG says:

    Sounds like everyone wants to just not pay taxes. How great? No police, no fire, no schools, no anything. You’re on your own!

  • tmare says:

    The city of Santa Ana business license is a joke. I own one rental property and I have to pay $200 a year to the city for a ‘business” license. I receive absolutely nothing for it except a piece of paper. I pay taxes on my rent received and a great deal in property taxes. What do I get for my $200 a year, NOTHING. They are providing absolutely no service to the public except the service of draining just a little more money from everyone. And no, I did not know that a rental property requires a city business license, it’s not even listed as a deduction for the IRS, it has to be listed as “miscellaneous”. Of course, I didn’t know until the city sent me a bill for three years back license fees with penalties a few years ago. If you are even one day late with the fee, it goes up 10%. It’s a joke.

  • larry says:

    Firstly, I pay my share of taxes, I’m sole proprietor and owner/operator with zero employees. My business is way down because its tied to the auto industry, I’m struggling, and if my wife wasn’t working, I’d be out business. My business is mobile and I service a dozen cities over the course of a year. Sorry, but there’s is no way I’m buying dozens of licenses. I’d have to buy them after the year is over anyway because clients change and revenues change. This is just another way to squeeze out the small guys. I’m 54 and have never taken a dime in unemployment money or welfare. Maybe I need to panhandle to make decent income again.

  • R U HIGH says:


  • never ending fight for freedom says:

    I can not believe the # of people who are shocked, SHOCKED, to learn the way city licenses work.
    The audience here needs enlightenment because this is the very smallest of all the MANY burdens placed on businesses.
    City lic…………….300.00
    liab. ins…………10,000.00
    comp……………..600.00 + 40 to 90 % of payroll + payroll for safety meetings
    franchise tax…….8% of goods sold
    state lic……………500 to 2,000 deepening on type of business
    facility rent
    facility maint.
    vehicle & equipment liab. ins………600-1,200 per piece of equip
    and there is more…

    My guess is most here never owned or have been involved in ANY business other than the position of a janitor or cashier.

    & matt; yeah, that’s what we need. More over paid, benefits for life, city workers sticking their noses in other peoples business. retard.

    • matt H. says:

      & matt; yeah, that’s what we need. More over paid, benefits for life, city workers sticking their noses in other peoples business. retard.


      actually we dont need the city in our business but businesses need a sense of community and often times a sense of organized planing and direction .

      mostly I dont like going to city hall and going into a dept.
      labeled incorrectly and or mainly sectioned off for taxes
      and not actual services of the named dept.

      Im all for reworking local government to make it work .
      some retards work more efficient and fair than some non tards .
      so thank you…

      • matt H. says:

        community services should not be labeled as government .

        government is debilitating or limiting force

        community services is progressive and government should only step
        in when its out of control .


  • cotysevan says:

    What about mobile Hot Dog vendors that stand in front of established restaurants? What is your take on the street vendors?

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