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Beginning December 2nd, doing business in the Magic City is about to get much easier.
On that date, the City of Birmingham will be adding online filing for business license tax collection.
Businesses from tech start-ups to the state’s largest corporations will have the option to submit and pay their business license renewals online, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week instead of paying in person at City Hall or mailing renewals. Payments can be submitted via ACH Debit (checking or savings) or credit card.
This effort, which brings Birmingham technologically into the 21st century, is an agreement between the city and Birmingham-based Avenu Insights & Analytics for tax and business license processing. Avenu works with over 3000 local and state governments nationwide and will be establishing a Tax & Administrative office in Birmingham.
Improved Business Licensing is part of implementing the city’s Strategic Plan
Shortly after Mayor Randall Woodfin was elected in 2017, he charged his staff to put together a strategic plan.
Completed in June 2018, the plan—which was named the Woodfin Way—addressed a persistent complaint the new administration heard when it held meetings with citizens and the business community across the city.
The problem: Birmingham’s antiquated business licensing process, which is based on 1980s technology, was hindering new businesses from forming in a timely manner. Meanwhile, many current companies described the present process as slow and arduous.
The strategic plan addressed those concerns head-on by including a section in the plan that calls for better city services at an efficient cost. One of the initiatives was to improve business licensing.
Doing Business Report
According to a recent report by Arizona State University, the city of Birmingham ranked 22nd nationally in the university’s annual Doing Business in North America report. Birmingham would have ranked higher, but was dragged down in one specific category—days it took for a business to be established and the cost.
Birmingham ranked 68th nationally out of 90+ U.S. cities in the study.
As a result, regional neighbors—Nashville, Atlanta and Charlotte—are considered more business friendly.
“The days it takes to establish a business in Birmingham was 5 times longer than Atlanta,” said Lester Smith, Birmingham’s Chief Financial Officer.
In total, the current process can take about 9 days to secure a new business license, according to Smith.
He added, “my goal is for people to have a temporary business license as soon as they complete the process – the same day they apply. We won’t achieve that this year. But if we can achieve a 50% reduction and get down to 4 days, that would be substantial.”
Supports Small Business and Saves Money
Mayor Woodfin likes how the new system saves time and money, especially for small business.
“Online filing adds tremendous convenience to our business owners, which saves them valuable time and streamlines the process,” he said.
The new system will also save city tax dollars in staffing and overtime costs, especially during business filing season during the months of January and February. It will also alleviate the cost associated with maintaining the city’s information management system.
Bottom Line – A Gateway for Doing Business
Smith summed up the new initiative best.
“What people don’t realize is that the business license process is the gateway of doing business in Birmingham, which opens up the door for all other taxes we collect. If you can make it easier for businesses to come to Birmingham and establish their businesses it will also open up the doors for other revenue streams.”
Still Available at City Hall
One final bit of information about the new online business license process- it is just a “plus.”
If you want to come to City Hall and see a friendly face or mail the fees and paperwork, that is still available. Much like today’s bank branches, even though the online service works 24/7, costs less and is more timely, for some folks, you can’t beat a face to face meeting.
Remember, the new online service begins December 2nd. The online service is not yet available for businesses that do not have a license or new businesses interested in getting a license. Individuals that fall into this category should go to City Hall to secure a license until the online access becomes available for this group.