FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 10, 2009
SMALL BUSINESSES AND NONPROFITS OPPOSE PROPOSED $7 MILLION COSTAR TAX BREAK
Sign-On Letter Urges DC Council to Reject Questionable Tax Subsidy
WASHINGTON -A group of DC small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and residents sent a letter today to Chairman Gray and the entire DC Council urging them to reject legislation that would give a 10-year 100 percent property tax break to CoStar, a Bethesda-based company, for moving its office to downtown DC.
The bill, the “The High Technology Commercial Real Estate Database and Service Providers Tax Abatement Act,” will be on the Council agenda at a legislative meeting on Tuesday, December 15. The tax break would be up to $700, 000 per year, for a total of $7 million.
The letter states that “It does not make sense to take a portion of DC’s most valuable real estate off the tax rolls for 10 years or to target economic development resources on large businesses in downtown DC, rather than on small businesses and other parts of the city.” The letter also notes that the proposed downtown tax cut is particularly ill-time given the fact that the city faces a $300 million budget gap and has made many budget cuts over the past year. “Creating new downtown office tax breaks for CoStar would only increase the city’s budget problems,” the letter notes.
“At a time when many residents and small businesses are suffering from massive economic downturn, the District should be directing resources to neighborhoods and small businesses, not downtown to big businesses,” said Michel Heitstuman, CEO of DC-based business On The Fly. “Tax breaks for favored downtown businesses are unwise and unfair.”
The letter questions the plan to direct tax incentives to downtown DC, which has the second lowest office vacancy rate in the U.S. and is one of few markets where office rents are rising. It also notes that CoStar would not have to hire any new DC residents, since they would only have to move existing workers.
“DC residents have been hit hard by this recession. Unemployment is at a record level and city budget cuts have affected services that many of us rely on,” said Colleen Dailey, Executive Director of Capital Area Asset Builders. “A large tax break for big business that could force even more cuts to vital services is bad policy – the city needs to be directing more dollars to initiatives that will help residents and small businesses get back on their feet financially.”