Business equipment tax prompts public forum in Naples

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Unfair taxation was the reason that usually law-abiding citizens dressed as Native Americans, raided a merchant’s ship and dumped tea into the Boston Harbor.

Unfair taxation is what a few residents have called the list of personal property tax accounts for the Town of Naples.

How could that tax be allocated more fairly?

An important note: To do away with the tax in an effort to be fair to all businesses in Naples would be flying in the face of Maine State law.

During the Naples Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, the topic of personal property taxes — also known as the business equipment tax — continued to bring up more questions than answers.

One of the comments was that the tax was improperly named and should be referred to as a commercial tax.

“If we are going to continue to have it, it should be renamed the commercial property tax,” Selectman Kevin Rogers said.

“This has been so subtle; there are people in town (who) don’t know it exists. I know people firsthand (who) didn’t know there was a personal property tax until a few months ago,” Rogers said.

A tax that people did not know about?

Maybe, it’s time to sit down with the experts.

The selectmen set March 21 as the date for a public forum on personal property taxes.

According to Chairman Bob Caron II, the board would set up a workshop with the town assessor, Paul Binette, a Certified Management Accountant who works for O’Donnell & Associates, Inc.

Caron advocated for getting the public’s input while the assessor was available to shed a light on the process of garnering information for the business equipment taxes.

“The State of Maine does not allow you to say you are not going to collect personal property taxes,” Caron said.

He said that Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak had sent board members a link to the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) website, explaining the law.

So, the option of abolishing the personal property tax was off the table.

“We cannot do it,” Caron said.

According to Paraschak, the personal property tax represents about 1% of the town’s revenue stream.

Meanwhile, some in the audience during Monday’s meeting suggested that there should be a trigger so that the town is made aware of new businesses, especially those that don’t require a liquor license.

It was also mentioned that it is within the town’s rights to withhold liquor licenses or permits from a business until taxes debts are brought current.

“There are businesses that never come in here for liquor license. There are businesses in town that we know full well have equipment. What is the trigger,” resident Jim Corrigan asked?

“Some businesses are paying; some aren’t. There has to be fairness,” he said.

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