IN THIS ISSUE: Columbia City Council’s plan to impose business fees for nonprofits would hit hospitals but not churches. … S.C.’s unemployment rate falls to 3.2% in August, thanks in part to 1,800 new construction jobs. … SCDOR Taxpayer Advocate is set to visit offices around the state from October through December. … Analysis: Many S.C. taxpayers will not be eligible for $50 tax rebate check. … REI Automation Expands in Columbia to Meet Robotics Manufacturing Demand.

Columbia’s Plan of Business Fees for Nonprofits Would Hit Hospitals Not Churches

Columbia – a city where 65% of property is tax exempt – has taken the first step toward charging business license fees to nonprofits with a 501(c) tax status but operate as a profitable company in an effort that could generate $2 million to $4 million per year toward services such as police and fire protection. The Columbia City Council initially approved the plan with a 6-1 vote, and a second vote is required for it to become policy that would target hospitals, nonprofits and their subsidiaries who offer services like a for-profit business. Charities and places of worship would be exempt from the fee unless they sell food or rent out areas as an event venue, said city council member Moe Baddourah , who first proposed the fee in 2015. (The State)

S.C.’s Unemployment Rate Falls to 3.2%, With 1,800 New Construction Jobs

South Carolina’s unemployment rate in August was 3.2%, a drop from July’s 3.4%. The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce estimated the state had a record 2,304,835 workers in August, up 57,776 from a year prior, and that the labor force of people working plus unemployed people looking for work was 2,382,091 for the eighth consecutive month of growth. Orangeburg was the only county where unemployment did not fall, where it rose to 5.5% from July’s 5.3%. Lexington County’s August unemployment was 2.4%. The national unemployment rate remains at 3.7%. South Carolina added 1,800 construction jobs during the month, which puts the state 300 construction jobs better than it was in August 2018. (Columbia Business Report)

Help is on the Way: SCDOR Taxpayer Advocate to Visit Offices Around the State

The South Carolina Department of Revenue’s Taxpayer Advocate will visit SCDOR offices across the state beginning in October to help resolve tax issues. The Advocate, which handles more than 2,000 calls per year from its Columbia office, listens to taxpayer concerns, ensures the SCDOR’s policies and procedures do not cause unnecessary hardship, and can intervene on a taxpayer’s behalf. Scheduled stops include Greenville (Oct. 10), Florence (Oct. 22), Charleston (Nov. 8), Rock Hill (Dec. 6) and Myrtle Beach (Dec. 20). Taxpayers are strongly encouraged to make appointments by calling (803) 898-5444. Click here for details on specific locations and areas of expertise. (SCDOR)

Analysis: 43% of S.C. Taxpayers Will Not be Eligible for $50 Tax Rebate Check

While the SCDOR is set to mail $50 tax rebate checks to up to 1 million qualifying SC taxpayers thanks to the state’s $61.4 million share of a winning Mega Millions lottery ticket, the specifics of the plan mean that about 43% of South Carolinians who filed 2018 individual state income tax returns will not receive a check. To qualify, a taxpayer must have owed South Carolina at least $50 in 2018 income taxes. Married couples filing jointly will only receive one $50 check, not $50 for each person. Many retirees and low-incomes workers did not owe South Carolina any income tax, thanks to the non-taxability of retirement benefits and standard deductions. Numbers for the 2017 tax year show South Carolina processed more than 2.38 million individual income tax returns, of which nearly 40% had no tax liability while 3 owed $50 or less. The rebate offer also does not reflect that those who do not owe income taxes likely still pay sales and property taxes. “The state doesn’t seem to consider them taxpayers unless they owe income tax,” writes David Slade of the Charleston Post and Courier. Click here for more details about the $50 tax refund process, including the importance of having a correct mailing address on file with the DOR. (Post and Courier)

REI Automation Expands in Columbia to Meet Robotics Manufacturing Demand

REI Automation, which customizes robotics equipment and manufacturing assembly lines, will spend $2.5 million to renovate and expand its headquarters southeast of downtown Columbia to help meet the demands of its global clientele. It’s workforce of 80 employees, where 40% are engineers and 40% are technicians, grew by 25 last year and the company expects to hire 15 workers next year. The company has added to its square feet of workspace roughly every five years over the pats two decades, growing from 2,000 square feet to 60,000. The company partners with automotive, consumer goods, fiber and nuclear companies, with medical devices being the primary driver for growth, such as machines that fill IV bags. “We build things you can’t buy,” chief executive Grant Phillips said. A Clemson University expert describes South Carolina’s growing manufacturing field as opportune ground for assembly automation; while workers are harder to find, automation is about being a supplemental tool to make those workers more productive, such as a robot who retrieves components for humans on the assembly line. (Post and Courier)

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

“We are currently experiencing the greatest period of robot expansion in history — over 180,000 robots have been shipped to American companies since 2010.” 

Jeff Burnstein, Association for Advanced Automation president. In Columbia, REI Automation is set to spend $2.5 million to renovate and expand its headquarters