City of Miami Business Tax Receipt (BTR) for Paralegals

Many people are not aware that the Code of Ordinances for the City of Miami includes a local business tax for paralegals. The amount of the tax is $116.00. When I first reported on this issue on July 3, 2012, I called the City of Miami’s Finance Department (350-416-1570) and spoke to several different people and each told me that BTR (Business Tax Receipt) is required for all paralegals who work within the City of Miami. Also, I know of at least one law firm that has been paying this tax on their employed paralegals for years. However, some people contacted me and said that they called and were told that the tax was for independent contractors, paralegals who were running their own businesses, and not to paralegals who were employed by law firms or other entities.

Because of the confusion, I reached out to the City of Miami and requested clarification. A “legal services request” was been submitted to the Office of the City Attorney in order to receive a “definitive answer” on this matter. I received that “definitive answer” by way of a memo dated September 5, 2012 from Assistant City Attorney Jose L. Arango – Paralegal BTR Memo.

The verdict is in folks – paralegals who work IN the City of Miami do need to pay the BTR to the City of Miami. We now have our definitive answer. To sum it up, paralegals were added to the list of professionals required to pay a BTR on July 27, 1999. They use the ABA definition of a paralegal. They also state that a paralegal should be considered an employee for the purposes of Florida Statutes Chapter 205 which exempts employees from paying the tax. HOWEVER – the exemption does not apply to BTR’s imposed before October 13, 2006. That means, we are NOT exempt.

Now, this raises a lot of other issues. I asked Assistant City Attorney Jose L. Arango who could help with follow up questions and he directed me to the Supervisor of the BTR Department in the City of Miami’s Finance Department.

On Friday afternoon I had a really great conversation with the supervisor. To make a long story short, paralegals are required to comply with the laws and to pay taxes that they are required by law to pay. They recognize that this really works on the honor system, and that they are ASKING paralegals to comply. Unlike attorneys, there isn’t one set list of people who are “officially” paralegals. He told me that the City is really understaffed and they simply don’t have the manpower to go door to door enforcing this tax at the moment and they don’t have the budget to start sending out notices, etc. It isn’t their priority. Of course, this doesn’t mean it won’t become their priority in the future. Once you pay the first time though, you are now in the system and you can be sure to receive a renewal notice the following year.

It kind of seems like a non-issue at the moment… Some firms and some paralegals have been paying the paralegal BTR since it became law… and most are not… Fair? Certainly not to the ones who have been paying.  So what about you? Do you plan to voluntarily comply? Are you or your employer already paying your tax?

You can read Article II of the Code by clicking here: Article II BTR.

If you fail to pay your BTR, you are technically subject to BTR Enforcement but enforcement isn’t really happening right now.

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