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Filing Down the Tax Burden

Some 39,000 small businesses based in San Francisco got a break from annoying paperwork this week when the Board of Supervisors approved a law exempting those that owe no taxes from filing city business tax returns.

About 62,000 of the 70,000 businesses registered in the city are exempt from paying business tax because their tax liability falls below $2,500. But all 70,000 had been required to file returns with the city treasurer. Under the legislation approved Jan. 17, about 39,000 of those businesses -- those with tax liabilities of under $500 -- won't have to file the return at all starting in February, 2002.

But qualifying businesses won't completely escape the paperwork: Each must send in a postcard stating that it doesn't owe any tax payments. As for those that owe between $500 and $2,500, they must still file returns -- even though they are exempt from actual payments.

City officials say businesses covered by the easier requirement can be relatively substantial. One spokesperson estimates that retailers with sales of under $333,000, as well as consultants and professionals with annual receipts below $166,000, will be eligible to send in the postcards. By Robin K. Phillips

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