Following is the response from The Honorable Michael McMillan, License Collector for the City of St. Louis, regarding our story about Soulard as a Tax Haven. The response was dated January 5, 2010. It was received Jan. 9.
"We are in receipt of your email in reference to the article titled: "Soulard: The Tax Haven Revisited." Neither company you named, Great Grizzly and Clementine’s Inc, requires compliance action. Clementine’s is currently in compliance. Great Grizzly’s taxes are just due now.
"Allow me to clarify the role of the License Collector in matters such as these. We serve as a check and balance for other departments in City Hall. We verify that the requirements of those departments are met prior to issuing a business license. Once we receive a clearance from those departments we issue a business license. We recognize the difficulties that businesses are facing during these tough economic times and we allow them every opportunity to become compliant.
"We follow a process that includes the following steps:
"1. Any business coming to our office for a license must have a clearance from the Collector of Revenue on Earnings Tax, Payroll Expense Tax, and Personal Property Tax. Additional items requiring clearance are Occupancy Permit Status, Workers Compensation, Missouri Department of Revenue Clearance and Addendum Form. Any one or all of these items could result in a license not being issued. Real Estate Taxes are addressed solely by the Collector of Revenue.
"2. Our Office does not have the authority to close a business according to St. Louis City Revised Code Chapter 8.02.110; 8.02.120; and 8.06.160. Upon recommendation of the Collector of Revenue, when a business is not in compliance, we first contact the non-compliant business owner and offer them an opportunity to come into City Hall for a resolution hearing. If a resolution is not obtained, pursuant to state and local law, the License Collector has a duty to report such violations to the Circuit Attorney, Police and/or the Grand Jury for further action. Any further action is at their discretion. We do, however, continue to make attempts to collect outstanding taxes until the business either reconciles its account or closing occurs.
"Since taking office, my staff and I have worked to make the licensing process easier with on-line services, annual licensing fairs, industry briefings, increased fraud monitoring and consumer education. Our community outreach activities include creating networking opportunities with resource providers such as financial institutions and manpower assistance agencies to help businesses sustain and grow. Overall, we have initiated over 25-upgrades during my term for improved business services.
"Additionally, we initiated collaborations between multiple city departments to share information in order to ensure continuity and foster more expedient problem-solving actions. We have found that this cross communication decreases customer confusion, offers them accurate information, workable resolutions and results in more businesses being able to remain open. This benefits the city and the many organizations and city services supported by business taxes.
"For more information about our Office, please visit our website: http://stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/license/. We trust our response will help you to help others clarify these issues. If you have any additional questions, please call me at (314) 622-4643.
City of St. Louis"
We must admit that we are somewhat disappointed by this response. According to the web site of the License Collector, under "additional links, frequently asked questions," we find that the law states as follows:
8.06.020 License - Payment of Taxes
"No license or permit provided for, or required by this chapter or any ordinance of the City shall hereafter be issued by any department, division or office thereof to any person, until all taxes, personal taxes, earning taxes, license taxes, permits, certificates and merchants tax due, if any, of such person for the preceding year shall first have been paid."
From what the License Collector says, "until all taxes" means all taxes - except real estate taxes - have to be paid. "Real Estate Taxes are addressed solely by the Collector of Revenue," Michael McMillan says.
In the meantime, as of 1:30 p.m., Monday, January 11, 2010, according to the web site of the Collector of Revenue, Great Grizzly Blues LLC, owner of 1027 Geyer (a.k.a. 1863-1865 Menard) owes real estate taxes:
for 2009 ($6,987.60)
for 2008 ($7,058.01)
for 2007 ($7,819.77), for a total amount due of $21,865.38. In addition, we believe that taxes for 2006 and 2005 are also owed. Unfortunately, the Collector of Revenue web site only goes back three years.
Also, Clementine Inc., listed as owner of 2001-2003 Menard, owes real estate taxes on this property:
for 2009 ($5,080.48)
for 2008 ($5,131.81)
for 2007 ($5,685.73), for a total amount of $15,898.02.
Both businesses are open for business. Doesn’t seem right. It implies something about our local government, particularly in these tough times of service cutbacks. And, obviously, the buck does not stop at the Office of License Collector.