Trial over Hilton Head's business licenses adjourns without resolution

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Trial over Hilton Head's business licenses adjourns without resolution

By JOSH McCANN
jmccann@islandpacket.com
843-706-8145
Published Thursday, December 9, 2010   |  307 Words  |  

A dispute over business license fees between the Town of Hilton Head Island and laser-component manufacturer Kigre adjourned indefinitely without resolution Thursday.

Hilton Head Island dropped its pursuit of more than $41,000 in fees and penalties for tax years 2002 to 2005 and acknowledged it made procedural mistakes in seeking that money, but other issues in the case remain unresolved.

During the trial, town officials told Beaufort County Master-in-Equity Marvin Dukes they mistakenly failed to hold a hearing to allow Kigre to appeal its assessment to Town Council. Kigre, the defendant in the case, also argued it never received a notice by certified mail of how much it owed, which it says the town's ordinance requires.

Remaining questions include whether the business license ordinance is legal and whether the company -- which pays the minimum amount of business license fees, about $62 per year -- can continue to claim it is exempt from paying more.

The company, which has operated on Hilton Head since 1986 and sells most of its products outside South Carolina, says its fee should be based only on what it sells in the state. The town typically bases the fee on a company's gross receipts.

Town officials say the company could only claim such an exemption if it pays a business license fee elsewhere, which it does not.

The company also says the ordinance is unfair and enforced "arbitrarily and capriciously."

Town officials say the ordinance is legal, and they enforce it as diligently as possible with limited staff.

Kigre might call for testimony from town manager Steve Riley, who was unavailable Thursday, before resting its case, company attorney Tom Taylor said.

Before adjourning, Dukes asked both sides to find a time when they could continue the case.