This Would be a Good Year for City Business Tax Reform

Last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that Yahoo was moving into the City of Los Angeles.  The firm will be relocating from Santa Monica to Playa Vista and will bring 400 jobs.  This is of course very good news for the City.

Of particular interest to me is what enticed Yahoo to make the move to the City of Angels.  The Mayor listed the City’s special incentives, including a three-year business tax waiver for businesses relocating from outside the city as well as L.A.’s special tax incentives for Internet companies.

The fact is taxes are a huge issue when it comes to enticing businesses to locate within a city. Taxes are also a significant issue when it comes to retaining businesses.  Only four years ago, Hollywood lost Legal Zoom and 300 high-paying jobs to Glendale when the City insisted on more than quadrupling that firm’s business taxes.

Years ago, when I worked in San Pedro, we fought a similar battle to retain Logicon, which was being enticed by Long Beach because of the differential in taxes.  It was only when the City found a way to reduce the gross receipts tax, that we were able to retain what was then an important aerospace company.

Last year, UCLA reported that L.A. had one of the worst job creation records of any major city in the nation.  I am convinced that the gross receipts tax is the reason why we lag so far behind.

And yet, it is very difficult to get meaningful action to alter this job-killing tax – primarily because the City garners 10 percent of its budget, about $440-million annually from this tax.  The City Council, facing difficult budget forecasts, is understandably reluctant to give up this source of revenue.

While we appreciate the fact that they did approve a small decrease in the tax last year, it was so small as to be almost meaningless if they really wanted to change the paradigm (16 percent decrease in the highest rate spread over three years).

This city really needs jobs.  Its resident need jobs.  And the city needs all that new companies bring to a city by way of civic engagement and the other contributions that they make.  Recruiting new businesses to relocate to Los Angeles and actively retaining our diverse and vibrant business community will require a new approach to our antiquated business tax structure.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce believes that the best tactic to bring jobs to Los Angeles would be to completely do away with the Gross Receipts Tax.  Numerous suggestions have been made on how to phase out the gross receipts tax.  Some have suggested that we replace it with something else – such as a net receipts tax.  One thing is for sure … if you really want to attract jobs, the city cannot replace an onerous tax with another onerous tax.  A great deal of thought needs to be put into whatever is done, so that we are competitive with our neighboring cities.

Wouldn’t it be nice if 2015 were the year when the City Council and Mayor finally tackle this problem and find a real solution?  What a gift that would be to our citizens, to take meaningful action which will help to generate countless new jobs within our city.

Then perhaps there would be even more stories about firms like Yahoo moving to Los Angeles.

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Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 22 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.

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