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VOL. 117 | NO. 87 | Friday, May 2, 2003

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Renewal Community conference touts tax credits for the taking

Renewal Community conference touts tax credits for the taking


The Daily News

The eight to 10 employees who qualify T.W. Jones Jr.s company for Renewal Community Employment Credit tax incentives probably dont realize their residence within the citys 48 Renewal Community census tracts add to the companys overall profits.

They just know their employer gave them a nice raise this year.

We got a benefit from the federal government, and were going to pass that on, said Jones, owner of T.W. Jones Packaging Group, a recycler of industrial bulk containers.

If they were going to get a 30 cent an hour raise, they probably got more like a 60 cent an hour raise, because part of that tax credit works out to be, in our case, anywhere from 50 to 75 cents an hour per man.

So if I can pass that on to them, it really doesnt hurt me at all, as long as were making a profit.

Jones hiring strategy now centers around the Renewal Community tax incentive program that Memphis has participated in since January 2002. For every employee who lives within the 40-mile RC-designated area, Jones receives a $1,500 yearly tax credit.

Dottie Jones, administrator of the program for the citys Office of Intergovernmental Relations, hopes to see more employers who qualify for RC incentives use the program in the same way.

One of the important things for people to understand is that if they are hiring someone, they need to look at where that person lives, she said. If theyre faced with hiring an employee and they have two equally qualified candidates but one comes with a tax credit and one doesnt well, any intelligent business person is going to want to hire the person that comes with the credit.

The employment credit is one of seven tax incentives for business owners whose companies either are located in the Renewal Community or employ residents of the RC, which includes parts of Downtown, Midtown, Whitehaven and the Memphis International Airport, among other areas. The incentives come in the form of wage credits, deductions and capital gains.

A free conference designed to teach more citizens and business owners about the tax credits takes place Tuesday and Wednesday at the Downtown Marriott, 250 N. Main St.

Memphis qualified as a Renewal Community based on several criteria, including the fact that each of the 48 census tracts included in the community has a poverty rate greater than 20 percent.

In addition, the aggregate group has an 18.6 percent unemployment rate, nearly doubling the 9.4 percent rate required of an RC. Also, about 75 percent of households in the Memphis RC qualify as low-income, exceeding the programs requisite 70 percent.

Its a sad thing to say, but the poorer the area that you designated, the better your chances (to qualify as an RC), Dottie Jones said.

But, qualification for the eight-year designation is a big plus for the 4,900 businesses located in the RC and others that employ residents of the community, she said.

Its a really cool program, she said. Theres no certification process, they dont have to get a piece of paper from the city or the state that says theyre a Renewal Community business they just have to file a form on their income taxes.

However, many business owners are not yet aware of the benefits the RC designation brings, a fact the city and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development wants to change.

Over an eight-year period, businesses throughout the 48 census tracts involved in the RC can take advantage of close to $3 million in tax incentives, said HUD operations specialist Dorothy Cleaves. This was the first year (2002) that people could really take advantage of it. And we didnt see the participation that we really wanted.

So what were doing is making a push to educate the community about these tax incentives.

HUD and the city are sponsoring the Renewal Community Tax Incentive Conference, which begins at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday and at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, to provide business owners with workshops designed to help them take advantage of the program.

A street fair that runs from 4:45 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday will give business owners who cant get away during the workday a chance to meet with various professionals and government representatives to learn more about RC tax incentives.

Dottie Jones hopes the conference will help spread word about the RC designation so qualifying business owners will at least know enough about the availability of RC tax benefits to ask their tax preparers about them.

When people leave, they dont need to be experts on these credits, but they need to know enough to know to ask, she said. They need to know enough to call whoever prepares their taxes and say, Excuse me, did you know anything about this? Well, you ought to.

Thats what were hoping.

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