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Wheeling Hopes to Help Small Retail Businesses

WHEELING – The city of Wheeling wants to offer pandemic-related relief to eligible small businesses by the way of a new Business and Occupation Tax Credit.

Members of the Finance Committee of Wheeling City Council met Tuesday night and introduced details of a proposed COVID-19 City of Wheeling Small Retail Business B&O Tax Credit program, which has been in the works for several weeks.

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has been very difficult on some of our small retailers,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said. “I think that small retailers were probably hurt the most of all of our local businesses. This is a great way to give back.”

The mayor thanked Councilman Dave Palmer, chairman of the Finance Committee, along with Vice Chair Chad Thalman and fellow committee member Ty Thorngate for their efforts in developing the plan.

“I want to thank them for coming together to come up with a plan, for working with city staff and for making sure it’s something that we can afford,” Elliott said. “Fortunately, the city has had some fiscal strength this year, and we’re able to give a little bit back.”

Although 2020 had been a financially challenging year for many because of the pandemic, municipalities like the city of Wheeling have been able to bolster their budgets through state reimbursement allocations of federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding.

“Some other communities around the state have given B&O tax credits,” City Manager Robert Herron said, noting that Palmer had spearheaded the effort to have a similar plan offered in Wheeling. “So at his request, we did have the finance department look at a number of small retail businesses that we have in the community.”

Herron said those small retail businesses — with 25 employees or fewer — fell into two categories: those that have paid all four quarters of B&O tax and those that did not pay all four quarters for any reason.

“If you look at one quarter worth of B&O tax credit for those types of businesses, the impact on B&O tax revenue for the general fund would be between $120,000 and $135,000 per year,” Herron said. “What’s proposed is a one-quarter B&O tax credit for small retail businesses with under 25 employees.”

Palmer said in order to qualify, small businesses would have to be current on their 2020 B&O tax. If a business presently is behind, there will still be an opportunity to get up to date on B&O taxes to make it up before the end of March in order to take advantage of the tax credit.

Wheeling Finance Director Seth McIntyre said the city service fee records and other resources could be used to identify and reach out to eligible local small retail businesses about the availability of the tax credit. Information can be posed on the city’s website as well, and there are other means to connect with eligible retailers about the program, officials said. “I think it’s important that we help out our local small businesses that provide services and pay taxes here in the city of Wheeling during this difficult economic time,” Thalman said.

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