MOULTRIE -- If three department-store or restaurant owners from three surrounding towns compared occupational-tax reciepts with a Moultrie store owner, they might be a little surprised.

The storeowner in Tifton would pay the most, at $302, while the storeowner in Thomasville is to pay $251. Cairo's businessowner would pay $100 and the Moultrie entrepenuer would fork out $125 for occuaptional fees.

All of these hypothetical businesses gross between $300,000 and $350,000 per year in sales and have five people on payroll.

The Observer obtained information from authorities in each of the towns used in this example.

The City of Moultrie cited higher occupational taxes -- business license fees -- in surrounding, comparable towns in attempt to triple the fee recently.

At council's last meeting, Nov.19, Mayor Bill McIntosh told a business owner who was protesting the hike that he would "pay a lot more in other towns." Council ultimately tabled the issue, along with fee hikes to two utilities.

However, Thomasville and Tifton use a different method in determining how much occupational taxes a business pays than do Moultrie and Cairo.

A gross receipts method -- whereby the total amount of sales a business does for one year determines how much occupational tax it pays -- is used in Thomasville and Tifton. Moultrie and Cairo, however, place businesses into brackets depending on how many employees they have. Thomasville and Cairo include administration fees in their prices.

The City of Moultrie expressed interest in switching to the gross-reciepts style in effort to relieve some of the financial burden on small businesses.

According to figures released by the city, 78 percent of businesses in Moultrie are considered small, and therefore pay an unproportionate amount of occupational taxes.

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