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County steps up enforcement of business fee

Russell County business owners who have not paid their county business license and gross receipts tax could soon find themselves with a hefty bill and a court date.

The county commission voted Tuesday to step up the enforcement of the business license, after finding a large number of county businesses failed to pay the new fee by the Jan. 1 deadline.

The county will hire at least one temporary enforcement officer to help County Enforcement Officer Bill Friend, who has been notifying businesses of their delinquent status.

The violation carries a $1.50 per day late penalty, which will not be forgiven. Businesses have a 72-hour period after being notified by the county enforcement officers and receiving a warning citation. If the license is not paid during this time, the business owner faces the prospect of being cited and sent to Russell County District Court and having to pay the fee, the late penalty, fines and court costs.

The Alabama Legislature passed the bill authorizing the business license fee last spring during its 2008 regular session as part of the county commission's revenue enhancement package.

The fee, which uses the Phenix City business license as its benchmark, must be paid by all county businesses including those within city limits. The county fee is set at 75 percent of the Phenix City business license.

The fee was the first change in the county business license since the early 1930s.