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January 31, 2015

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Cracking down on companies without business licenses


Las Vegas Sun

Businesses needing to get licensed can go to the Henderson City Hall. Businesses often are unaware they need a Clark County license because they have already bought one with the cities of Las Vegas or Henderson or North Las Vegas.

Business licensing is still a problem in Clark County. More precisely, many people who set up shop do not pay for a required business license, costing the county millions of dollars.

That point was made once again during the County Commission meeting last week, supported by some surprising dollar figures.

What prompted the discussion this time?

The vending machines at the airport. One vending operator, NCV Southwest Inc., is selling its assets to First Class Vending Inc.

The sale was such a routine matter that it was part of the commission’s consent agenda, which is generally a place for multiple items that are approved in one motion without debate or discussion.

But a sentence at the end of a summary caught the eye of Commissioner Steve Sisolak.

What did it say?

“First Class Vending Inc. will obtain a Clark County business license prior to the start of operations …” Sisolak noted that means the business currently has no business license.

Steve Sisolak

Steve Sisolak

It’s an issue that comes up at almost every commission meeting. In most cases, businesses have no idea they need a county license because they have already paid for one with the cities of Las Vegas or Henderson or North Las Vegas.

It never used to be a big deal because no one asked about it. This commission, however, asks because money isn’t pouring into county coffers the way it did during the boom. This commission counts every penny.

Is a license expensive?

They range from $100 to $1,000 a year. The type of business determines the fee. For example, pawnshops pay $550, tattoo parlors pay $150, advertisers pay $300 and vending machine operators pay an amount based on gross revenues.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Commission is working on a unified business license. Business owners would file one form and pay one fee for a license that would be valid in all jurisdictions in Clark County.

The fee amounts seem small. Are they?

Individually, sure. But for the county they add up. In fiscal year 2011, Clark County collected $27.3 million in business license fees.

What’s being done to collect this revenue?

As a matter of fact because of repeated complaints by commissioners, the county is cracking down on businesses that don’t pay these fees, said Sisolak. In fiscal year 2011, Business Licensing investigated 1,027 businesses, collecting fees from 721 for a total of $1.3 million.

“They’re listening to us,” Sisolak said of county staff.


County Quote of the Week

“Do you want the whole thing read? It’s graphic.”

“It’s graphic?”

“Oh yeah.”

Exchange Wednesday between Sisolak and county staff, when the commissioner asked for a definition of “adult use” before approving a pool/cabana/hot tub area next to Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club. (To judge whether it’s graphic, read it for yourself in Chapter 30.08-6 of the county’s zoning rules.)

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  1. How about one license to do business anywhere in the state? Less paperwork, less red tape and less aggravation for entreprenuers. We don't need separate license plates for each municipality we drive through, do we? The fee to be shared between the state and the jurisdiction the business is located within. Or, is that too simple?

  2. Whay do businesses get for their yearly fee of up to $1000.? Anything besides a piece of paper?

  3. Good idea, Jerry. In the age of computers it ought to be possible to have one application and one license with the revenues split among the jurisdictions depending on where business is done. Of course, being governments, each one must hire consultants and specifiers and employ separate contractors so that what comes out is a kluge. Google or Amazon could do this without a problem.

  4. "Business licensing is still a problem in Clark County. More precisely, many people who set up shop do not pay for a required business license, costing the county millions of dollars."

    The flaw in the law I see here is failing to distinguish between incorporated businesses and sole proprietors. The implication I get is there is none -- if you trade in your own name without becoming a state-approved entity, if you just carry on commerce without licensing (government permission), the "millions" the county wants is millions that should be staying in circulation with the people where it will do the most good.

    A good example is the Sun's past articles about the state contractors' board setting up Craigslist stings for unlicensed home improvement services. Those who responded in good faith, looking for work, were immediately hit with citations with hefty fines if all their papers were not in order -- basically license, registration and proof of insurance.

    Despite all the hand-wringing here about high unemployment and all the suffering that brings, government just doesn't get it. In reality it's carrying on as if nothing has changed and stands as a serious block to job creation, especially those of the self-created ilk.

    The bottom line is government needs to get a lot smaller so the people can thrive and get a lot bigger.

    "The individual may stand upon his constitutional rights as a citizen. He is entitled to carry on his private business in his own way. His power to contract is unlimited. He owes no duty to the State or to his neighbors to divulge his business, or to open his doors to an investigation, so far as it may tend to criminate him. He owes no such duty to the State, since he receives nothing therefrom beyond the protection of his life and property. His rights are such as existed by the law of the land long antecedent to the organization of the State, and can only be taken from him by due process of law, and in accordance with the Constitution. Among his rights are a refusal to incriminate himself and the immunity of himself and his property from arrest or seizure except under a warrant of the law. He owes nothing to the public so long as he does not trespass upon their rights." -- Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43, 74 (1906)

  5. Ravenb asks what do they get for this unrepresented tax? Nothing. It's just a money grab that does nothing for the business, its extortion and protection fees.

    Protection from the County, City, and State themselves like a neighborhood thug who demands a fee so he does not burn your business to the ground, this is the same thing, they demand more money from you for not paying them and threaten to destroy your business if you don't pay the legalized extortion.

    We as citizens get nothing for it either, those fees are eaten up in administrative costs of running the collection and penalty scam overhead.

  6. One thing that could halp the county is if like Henderson and Las Vegas they make it so you can renew online or do anything regarding business licenses online. Only half the time they send you a new updated license after renewing.

  7. They can start with all of the "actors" on the strip dressed up as cartoon characters, celebrities, cigarette butts, etc. hustling people for money to take a photo with them. They are operating "businesses" and very few have licences or permits to do so, insted using the tired old "first amendment" arguement. They may have a right to do it, but they have a responsibility to do it within the law. I'd guess that the card flippers are at least probably employed by licensed businesses, but still annoying. I occasionally sell items at car shows, etc. in California, with the proper licensing and permits. If I ever decided to sell at a show in Las Vegas (or any other state. city or county, you can bet I'll first get the proper city/county and state permits (sales tax, etc). in place.

  8. "Only half the time they send you a new updated license after renewing."

    Brianlv -- more proof all they want is the $$.

    "I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically." -- Henry David Thoreau 1849 "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience"