The City Late Fee Scam

August 13, 2023


I am a judgment broker that writes often. Usually, I stick to positive or neutral topics. However, I recently figured out that the government of the City of San Jose, CA seems to be purposely making me pay late fees for my annual city business license. I have a stable business with a long-term record, and have had the same address for a decade.

For the last 3 years in a row, I have been mailed a late annual business license tax notice with massive extra late fees added. Each of the last 3 years in a row, I was never mailed the original bill or invoice, nor was I called or emailed. The letters with their demand to pay my annual business license fee and for late fees backed up by law, arrived in the middle of February of each of the last 3 years.

Each year, I called the San Jose business license department and asked them why I never got their original notice, only the late notice. They always said they did mail me their first notice months ago; however after 3 years in a row, I now think this may be a scam. There are very few businesses that could get away with not mailing you an invoice, or reminding you of an upcoming annual payment; and then have the right to send you an invoice with massive late fees added.

I suspect this is happening to thousands of business owners in San Jose, and perhaps other cities around the country. I know they did not mail me their bill first. I bet that if I asked to speak to a supervisor, they would say budget cuts do not allow them to mail out invoice notices. My opinion is that if they can afford to mail out late notices, they can afford to mail out their invoices before the due date.

I suppose one solution is for me to set an annual reminder on my computer, to drive to their downtown office every year, pay to park, and pay for my business license in person; so I will not get scammed for late fees. The drawbacks are the parking fees, wasted gas, and the time it takes from my business-hours.

Another solution would be for the city to put a date on their website, after which a late notice and penalty gets added. That way, no notices would need to be mailed; however it would certainly help if they would mail out invoices before their due date. Alas, the City of San Jose’s website does not even spell San Jose correctly, and is difficult to navigate. I cannot find anything useful at their main site except the address to visit and mail things to.

On their late fee bill, there was another website listed, and that website was better. It seems that local law 4.76.270 is closest to having some useful information. 4.76.270 states “Each business tax payment thereafter is due and payable annually on the fifteenth (15th) day of the calendar month during which the person first engaged in business in the city”.

I guess it is my responsibility, to look at my old business licenses and when I paid them by check; back when they used to invoice me; to calculate my annual business tax due date. I think making everyone’s annual business tax license due on the same day every year, would be a good idea.

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