New businesses miss out on Council incentive rebates due to a ‘wording’ error

Refunds to new businesses who missed out on Business Incentive rebates from Coffs Harbour City Council have been deferred by Council. Photo: Emma Darbin.

 

PLANS by Coffs Harbour City Council to refund local businesses who missed out on receiving Business Incentive rebates due to an issue with the wording of a Council policy have been deferred by Council.

The Business Incentives Policy was adopted by Council at a meeting in September 2018.

The intent of the Policy was to lessen the financial burden of commencing a new business.

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In late 2019, Council noted an issue with the wording in the Policy, specifically that the term ‘business premises’ and ‘business use’ was referenced rather than ‘commercial use/commercial premises’ in the eligibility criteria.

As a result of the different wording, businesses such as retail shops, offices, retail buildings, cafes, restaurants, pubs and other food and beverage operators may have been excluded from the Business Incentive Policy.

In February 2020 Council agreed to change the wording from ‘business premises/use’ to ‘commercial premises/use’.

Council staff had recommended that Council refund Section 64 and Car Parking Contributions to businesses who were excluded from the Business Incentive Policy in a report presented at Council’s Ordinary Meeting on Thursday 22 April.

“By agreeing to refund contributions to businesses who were excluded from accessing the Business Incentive Policy, Council is upholding the true intent of the policy,” the Council report stated.

“It could be considered inequitable that retail, office and food & beverage operators who submitted a development application between 13 September 2018 and 13 February 2020 were charged for Section 64 and Car Parking Contributions, particularly when other operators (such as a hair dressing salon or a dry cleaning business) did not have to pay these contributions due to an unintended consequence.”

However, in a closed confidential Council session at the end of last week’s Council meeting councillors resolved to defer the Proposed Business Incentive Policy refunds, and for Council to receive a report covering the history of the six impacted applicants who a refund may apply if refunds are to be applied.

The Council report will also provide a profile of other commercial developments that have been approved by Council since the Small Business Enterprise Incentive and Business Incentive Policies have been introduced.

 

By Emma DARBIN

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