One of many reasons why Kansas City MO is a pain in the …

 I’ve been chasing down the details to get a business license, so that I can legally sell my art. 

The state of Missouri has been pretty laid back about the whole thing. Helpful call center folks who tell me to what I need to do, what is required, what is optional, and how much it’s gonna cost me. As an artist/crafter, I don’t need any special license, just a sales tax number. The tax division even said that for a one-time craft show, I don’t even need the sales tax number. Easy peasy if I want to get one. They even have an online registration form.

The city of Kansas City MO… well, that’s another story entirely.

Over that past three weeks, I’ve made over a dozen calls to various departments, trying to tease out the information… one… painful… piece… at… a… time.

The people I’ve talked with range from call center phone jockeys to “specialists” to “supervisors”. The phone jockies are, for the most part, pleasant and attempt to be helpful, but the information they’ve provided ranges from completely erroneous to incomplete to thank you so much — you’ve been very helpful. The higher level supervisors, well… let’s just say they have an attitude. And not a good one.

Here’s the process so far:

1. I need a zoning clearance simply to use my little upstairs room to create paintings for sale. (Got it. Online form, quick turnaround. I assume I have everything I need from this dept. At least that department thinks so.)

2. I need to fill out two different city business license application forms, one of which requires a MO sales tax number, the other of which is so cryptic I don’t know where to begin. (Okay. See above. I guess I need to get a sales tax number after all.)

3. I need to walk into City Hall with the zoning clearance documentation, the two forms, and a check to pay the license fee (So far, they indicate a personal check is fine. We’ll see.) And that means taking a half-day off work and paying exorbitant parking fees downtown. (I’ll probably take the bus. It may take longer, but it will cost less and be less stressful.)

Supposedly, this can be completed in “just a few minutes” depending on “how many people are in line” when I arrive. And that’s assuming they agree that I have indeed jumped through all the necessary hoops and signed the documents in blood by the light of a full moon.

I’m told that if I were to do this by mail, I’d send in form #1, wait six weeks, call them for an ID#, then send in form #2 with the payment, then wait six weeks for them to mail me a license.

Is it possible to have more bureaucracy and inefficiency?

And oh, yeah. At some point, the county is going to want a piece of me. But they don’t give that kind of information out over the phone.



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One thought on “One of many reasons why Kansas City MO is a pain in the …

  1. ebonypearl

    June 17, 2008 at 10:36pm

    How awful! I think all too many places make it exceedingly difficult to start small businesses, especially art-related businesses.

    I hope things end well for you!

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  2. theresamather

    June 17, 2008 at 10:51pm

    When I lived in California, it was illegal to have a home business in my town. When I got a business license from the state, the city set up a court date and threatened to take action to shut me down. The law was written so that a teacher grading a paper at home could be subject to six months in jail for code violations. The reasoning is the city didn’t want “sweat shops” set up in homes.
    When I left California, home business and home offices were still illegal in many California cities, including Los Angeles.

    I moved to an area where no one cares what I do as long as I don’t try to keep cows or sheep on my lot. πŸ˜›

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  3. jeanerj

    June 17, 2008 at 11:05pm

    Theresa’s right. CA is a bitch for entrepreneurs, CO and ND are terrific. One visit to the Department of Revenue, and we’re set. So, unless you want to relocate (to ND! It’s beautiful here! Housing is dirt cheap!), you may have to endure Our Native Criminal Class (bureaucrats).

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  4. ravenchilde_art

    June 17, 2008 at 11:40pm

    Huh.. weird. Where we’re at, one can do whatever the hell you want out of your own home. Especially since we’re homesteaded.

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  5. kalimeg

    June 18, 2008 at 12:22am

    Sort of makes you wonder if legitimacy is overrated. And you are *not* going to like the instructions for self-employment tax on the Federal level, either. It is a real PITA, and not subject to credits of any sort — all credits come before self-employment tax, Medicare and Social Security.

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    • theresamather

      June 18, 2008 at 4:28pm

      Self employment tax is a bitch. I always made sure to pay all taxes my business required even though I couldn’t legally operate in my town. I had a permit, but for the local fairgrounds, and did not write off the space in my home I was using for my business.

      It was a staunchly Republican town that barred home business, btw.
      When I hear the Republicans crow about how much they’ve done to help small business I always feel like spitting up. If they really wanted to help small business they’d allow us to take self employment tax off the adjusted gross. πŸ˜›

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      • Author


        June 18, 2008 at 4:33pm

        I’m still stressing over this. I ran my numbers last night, and I still very much meet the federal criteria for “hobby” not business. I’m considering pulling out of this trunk show on Friday for fear of crossing the line into “actively seeking profit”. Would love to chat with you off-line. Email me?

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  6. Anonymous

    June 18, 2008 at 6:51pm

    Try getting a liquor license. I once had to write a letter to the city confirming that, because I owned my property, I didn’t have a landlord!

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  7. petrini1

    June 19, 2008 at 10:45pm

    My condolences. As I understand it, I don’t need any special dispensation from my state, but now I hear I may actually need a business license from the city just to sit at my own computer in my own house and write stuff that someone might be paying me for. This seems dumb. I see no clients here, I have no specialized equipment, I employ no other people, I keep no inventory, and I create no parking or traffic problems. Lately, I make precious little money from it. On top of all that, I’ve been doing this for years without a license. Why do governments at all levels persist in treating a one-person freelancer the same as a 25-employee business?

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    • Author


      June 19, 2008 at 11:09pm

      Exactly. After further investigation and a look at my “numbers” (or lack thereof), I’m postponing any further action on this until I can discuss it with my CPA friend. My art is a hobby, darnnit, and all this business BS is taking the fun out of it.

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