Senators debate bill waiving payment of business license fees

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Speaker Therese Terlaje says the bill is too broad. She says the assistance proposed by the measure should target individuals and small businesses who were impacted the most by the pandemic. (PNC photo)

The legislature has placed Bill 1-36 on the third reading file. The legislation proposes to waive the payment of business license fees for a certain period of time.

Bill 1-36 proposes to temporarily waive the payment of business license fees from October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2022, and to retroactively allow credit for fees that have already been paid.

The Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce submitted written testimony recommending that business license fees not be waived.

The Women’s Chamber says business license fees are generally not expensive in Guam and the Revenue and Tax services provided with help from the funding from these fees far outweigh the relief to businesses proposed by the bill.

Instead, the Women’s Chamber recommends a waiver or temporary reduction in more expensive fees such as Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) board fees for bars and restaurants, especially those establishments that were closed for more than 50 percent of the time between March 2020 and February 2021.

At session Friday morning, the legislation received mixed reactions from the body.

Speaker Therese Terlaje says the bill is too broad. She says the assistance proposed by the measure should target individuals and small businesses who were impacted the most by the pandemic.

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“I am aware that this pandemic has impacted some of our island’s small businesses. We’ve seen them close as a result of the pandemic and I understand we want to give support to small businesses and I would like to see additional relief. However, this bill in its current form is broad and it doesn’t limit the relief to those who may need it the most,” Terlaje said.

The Speaker said that DRT mentioned that the implementation of the bill would impact the department’s ability to promptly process tax refunds and she doesn’t want to impede DRT’s tax collection efforts.

Meanwhile, Sen James Moylan said he gets it that they need to assure that DRT has the funds to implement the requirements of the bill but he said he has introduced legislation to offset these costs.

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“I have proposed some measures which also provide some opportunities to reduce costs which we can provide DRT with the additional support from. In other words, we can find the needed funds to offset the concern of the agency,” Moylan said.

After deliberating on the bill, the legislature went into recess until 3 pm Monday.

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Louella Losinio
Louella Losinio is PNC's News Director for TV and Digital Media. She was a former reporter for the Marianas Variety (Guam Edition) and the Guam Daily Post, former editor-in-chief and co-founder of the Pacific Island Times, As a freelance writer, she has contributed content to various regional and local publications such as the Marianas Business Journal, Guam Business Magazine, The Guamanian, and Island Times. Aside from her decade-long experience in the media and print industry, Louella has experience in technical writing, education, and nonprofit management.