HAHN SIGNS TAX AMNESTY, OTHER BUSINESS LAWS.
VAN NUYS - Mayor James Hahn, taking advantage of initiatives pushed by his predecessor, signed into law on Thursday six new laws to change the city's business tax system, including a onetime amnesty for scofflaw companies.
``We are sending a message that business counts in Los Angeles,'' Hahn said at the event held at the Valley Economic Development Center with business leaders from around the city behind him.
``These six laws are an important step to make Los Angeles competitive not only with our neighbors but with other areas across the country trying to take our business. And this is just the start of what we hope to accomplish.''
Hahn acknowledged the measures he was signing were the result of efforts by former Mayor Richard Riordan but said he supported the measures as city attorney. The Los Angeles City Council gave final approval to the laws while Riordan was in office.
Hahn said he also will be pushing for a proposal to provide a two-year tax amnesty for start-up businesses to give them a chance to establish themselves before having to pay taxes.
Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Economic Development Corp., called it a huge first step.
``A lot of people were wondering what Hahn would do with economic development and he is showing it will be high on his radar screen,'' Kyser said. ``There is still a lot to do, but the business community will welcome anything that reduces the complicated tax structure that Los Angeles has.''
The measures signed by Hahn include the tax amnesty program, to run between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, and are expected to bring in $20 million in new revenue and $4 million a year in ongoing funds. Under the program, which expects to net only a small portion of businesses cheating on city taxes, all penalties will be waived.
``Businesses should not look for us to do this again,'' Hahn said. ``If they have forgotten to pay their taxes, we hope this will remind them.''
Other measures signed by Hahn will create a business tax settlement bureau to resolve disputes, revise how business tax assessments are appealed, equalize interest rates for tax refunds and penalties, exempt inter-company transfers from taxation and create a whistle-blower program to report delinquent firms.
While no exact figures are available, Hahn said officials have told him the reforms are expected to bring in more revenue - 75 percent of which will be used for additional tax relief and the remaining money going into a housing trust fund.
``The goal of this is to create more jobs,'' Hahn said. ``If we are successful, then we will need housing for those workers.''
Hahn said he purposely chose the San Fernando Valley for the signing ceremonies - his second visit to the region in his second week as mayor - to show the region's importance.
``It was the San Fernando Valley that helped our economic recovery, it is the San Fernando Valley that is helping us sustain it,'' Hahn said.
Hahn also cited the organized effort of the development center for bringing together a number of Valley business organizations, including the Valley Economic Alliance, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association and the Valley Economic Development Center.
``It is an example that we should use across the city to bring economic development together,'' Hahn said.
Mayor James Hahn, shown here at the groundbreaking for a Woodland Hills library, also spoke at the Valley Economic Development Center. He has signed six laws reforming the city's business tax system.
Evan Yee/Staff Photographer