Jacksonville has a single tax certificate for business licensing rather than a regime that licenses businesses individually by activity. The city is also comparatively accommodating to lower-income entrepreneurs when it comes to fees. But officials should streamline zoning and permitting rules for starting a business and provide clear online guidance on the process. The city should also eliminate needless restrictions on specific business types that inhibit entrepreneurs from maximizing their ventures.
In Jacksonville, the cost, delays, and complexity imposed by the regulatory process for small businesses make it difficult for entrepreneurs to start up.
Our comparative analysis of five common business types found that Jacksonville has the highest fees for home-based businesses of all the cities studied. An entrepreneur must pay seven different fees totaling $1,588 just to start a home-based tutoring business.
Entrepreneurs are frequently required to make in-person visits to agency offices to file paperwork or complete compliance tasks. For example, an entrepreneur must complete at least twelve in-person requirements when starting a restaurant.
Entrepreneurs in Jacksonville must navigate complex zoning and permitting procedures. For example, restaurant owners must complete 66 steps to start up. The city’s website is opaque, failing to properly guide applicants through the process to start a business: Jacksonville scores just two out of five in our one-stop shop analysis.
Starting a Business in Jacksonville: By the Numbers
We calculated this metric by totaling the fees for all the licenses, permits, and registrations each business needs to get started.
Number of Fees
We calculated this metric by counting how many fees governments impose on each business for completing registrations and paperwork.
We calculated this metric by totaling the number of agencies entrepreneurs must work with in order to get up and running—whether in the form of submitting paperwork to an agency’s staff, or in terms of abiding by regulations that an agency has promulgated.
We calculated this metric by counting the number of compliance activities each entrepreneur needs to complete in person, rather than online or by mail.
Number of Forms
We calculated this metric by counting the various forms and applications each business needs to submit
Number of Steps
We calculated this metric by totaling the discrete tasks an entrepreneur must complete to start each of the business types.
The city forbids those who have become delinquent on their personal property taxes from obtaining a business tax receipt, which poses a significant barrier to lower-income entrepreneurs trying to get started and who would be able to pay back taxes if allowed to earn an honest living.
Jacksonville has a number of regulatory roadblocks that single out specific kinds of businesses and entrepreneurs. For example, food trucks are forbidden from operating within 50 feet of brick-and-mortar businesses that sell the same types of products or services, limiting the locations where they can legally operate. Home-based businesses are restricted more than in most of the cities studied. Even if an applicant goes through the conditional approval process, their business is still limited to only 25% of the home’s gross floor area and cannot have non-resident employees.
Accommodations for New or Small Businesses
Because fees for the city tax certificate are often based in part on the size of the business, Jacksonville’s fee structure is more accommodating to smaller-scale businesses than a flat fee.
A person whose household income is below 130% of the poverty level is exempt from local business tax requirements and eligible for the Low Income Fee Waiver Program for state licenses.
At the state level, applicants may delay the effective date of a corporate entity to make filing an annual report easier. Fees for the food service license are also prorated according to date of issuance.
Officials and policymakers have the opportunity to make it cheaper, faster, and simpler to start a business in Jacksonville. City officials should:
Create a true one-stop shop for starting a business, with step-by-step guides and information that cover city and state requirements.
Simplify the process to obtain building permits by combining steps and paperwork, creating more guides for complying with agency rules, and lowering fees.
Streamline rules and eliminate restrictions on entrepreneurs who are trying to start out small. Make it easier—and less expensive—to obtain zoning permits for home-based business activities that pose little threat to neighbors’ health, safety, and quality of life. Eliminate the proximity restriction on food trucks.
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