Rules to Consider Tax Amnesty Program, Adding Guadalajara to Sister City Program

The city of San Jose may cut small businesses a few more breaks under a tax amnesty that sunsets this spring before doubling down on enforcement.

Since December, the city has extended a tax amnesty to businesses with income that falls twice below the federal poverty line. The deal—if moved on to the City Council’s March 5 meeting by the Rules and Open Government Committee on Wednesday—allows businesses to pay what’s past due through March 29 and, in exchange, the city will forgive any interest and penalties. The goal is to increase revenue by collecting from self-employed workers who might not otherwise pay. The revenue from the amnesty program could reach several millions.

The $38 cost to apply for the amnesty covers the administrative cost of processing income taxes dating back to 2009. Right now, 7,100 businesses qualify for that exemption, which adds up to $270,000 in fee revenues alone, according to the city’s Finance Department.

If the idea passes out of Rules and the City Council approves a few changes next month, residents whose business employs no one but a spouse or domestic partner can self-report income taxes when applying for the amnesty to waive the $38. The deadline to apply will then get extended to May 31 and $38 refunds would go to anyone who paid the fee since Jan. 1.

Apparently, a lot of sports referees and San Jose cops trying to make a buck on the side with private security gigs qualify for the tax amnesty and fee waiver, which prompted the city to reach out to them via public service announcements and newspaper advertisements.

The city has only a rough idea of how many people owe, because some businesses haven’t filed legal permits, says Julie Cooper, the city’s finance director. Under law, anyone doing business in city limits has to pay the business tax, which usually gets calculated based on number of employees. That includes commercial and residential landlords with three or more units, retailers, manufacturers, service companies, home-based businesses, contractors and wholesalers.

“This one-time amnesty program will allow businesses, landlords, and self-employed persons to pay their unpaid and delinquent business tax without penalties, interest or criminal prosecution,” the finance department says.

The amnesty applies to back taxes owed from January 2009 to December 2012.

Cooper says the city has notified about 40,000 small business and will follow up with anyone it didn’t’ hear back from after the amnesty period. Consider this fair warning, tax-evaders.

More of what caught our eye on the Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for February 13, 2013:

• Councilmember Xavier Campos wants to forge a sister city partnership with Guadalajara, Mexico. San Jose has seven other sister cities, which exchange delegates to learn about other cultures and form partnerships.

“The establishment of a sister city relationship with Guadalajara will only add to the existing economic and cultural exchanges occurring within our city and throughout the region,” he writes in his memo. “Many Jalisciense and their descendents have migrated and settle within the region while keeping relations with family in Jalisco, Mexico. These informal exchanges over the years have lead to the development of mom-and-pop businesses, the importing and exporting of goods, and the presents of a cultural identity in San Jose.”

Guadalajara shares more than familial ties with San Jose, Campos adds.

“Lastly, the City of San Jose and the City of Guadalajara both share in common the presence of a large technology industry,” he says. “The current size of Guadalajara technology industry has many people calling it the Silicon Valley of Mexico.”

• A letter submitted to the public record asks the city to redefine what constitutes a quorum for boards and commissions in its municipal code. City Manager Debra Figone brought up the same issue at a January City Council meeting, the letter says, adding that the definition needs to be changed “so that the quorum is based on filled seats, not unfilled ones.” The definition would apply only to advisory commissions to prevent a minority from making policy changes.

“The best that a handful of ‘minority renegade’ commissioners could accomplish would be to write a letter which has to go through [the rules committee],” writes Martha O’Connell. “Having attended over 100 rules meetings, I am certain that its members would not be intimidated or swayed by being pelted by a barrage of letters even if they were made into paper airplanes.”

• David S. Wall, indefatigable letter-writer and council critic, put more of his thoughts on the public record. He again slams the mayor and council for allowing a homeless camp to persist, wonders where the “residents of Camp Chuck Sam! dispose of their raw sewage” and encourages city leaders to attend a community theater production.

WHAT: San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee meeting
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: Kathy Carillo, 408.535.1254

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

8 Comments

  1. I just looked at David S. Wall’s letters to the Council.

    I think I noticed the first few tents in the vacant area across the freeway from the airport just after the Water District and City kicked out the homeless out of the Guadalupe River.  I believe the larger area is bounded by the freeway, the river and the railroad line, so it’s mostly only an eyesore.

    Did anyone ever try to camp in that vacant area before?  I’ve always thought that the area was an eyesore before the tents, and it’s been an eyesore for a long time too.  If they leave it as it is, they’ll find it hard to keep the campers out, so maybe that’s something the parks foundation can address.  The rose garden. the baseball fields and that faux creek along Taylor that’s already falling into disrepair are not enough to fill that area.

    There is a rest room by the baseball field, but it might be locked at night.  I don’t intend to find out if it’s locked at night.

      • For starters, why are all the soccer fields on the other side of 17?  My understanding is that it’s OK to put athletic fields in in the glide path.  The land on the other side of the freeway is much more valuable, because it doesn’t have the same use restrictions as land in the glide path of an airport has.

        People aren’t likely to camp in the middle of an athletic field.

  2. I’m happy to share that while on the Parks Commission I suggested that soccer fields might be a good interim use for the area while plans to implement the full Master Plan for GRPG were moving forward. Unfortunately that idea never gained traction with stakeholders of the plan. I’m no longer on the Parks Commission and not bound by constraints of city policy and happy working with the Foundation to hear ideas about improving our parks, trails and public spaces.

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