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Revamped website to help busy tax office

Nearly all required revenue agency forms for business and property owners online

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- More people want to start businesses in Frederick County, even as commercial revenue continues to fall.

At the same time, Commissioner of Revenue Ellen Murphy says her office must process more applications and other filings without additional staff. In an effort to handle the increasing workload, the commissioner's office recently redesigned its Web page to offer business owners and other taxpayers a chance to make transactions online.

"The way the county has grown and we are short-staffed because of economic reasons, it's keeping us alive, if you will," Murphy said at a press conference Wednesday. "We're seeing more and more commercial places indicating that there is growth in the area and that we're coming back."

Murphy pointed out the construction of additional retail spaces in the Rutherford Crossing shopping center on Martinsburg Pike, as well as a new Wal-Mart at U.S. 522 and Tasker Road, as examples of possible economic improvement for the county. More businesses also means more work for her office.

"So we have more and more to do with the same number of people, and in order to keep the costs down we needed to find a more efficient way of doing things," Murphy said.

While the gross revenue collected with business licenses has fallen in the past two years, the commissioner said the number of applications continues to rise. This increase comes as a result of layoffs and other economic hardships faced by people who find they need to start their own businesses to make ends meet.

The online services also may help business owners save the time and money it costs to make a trip to the commissioner's office downtown, Murphy said.

People can now fill out and submit forms as well as pay fees and tax bills at any hour of the day, Murphy explained.

The Web page includes almost all forms required of owners of real estate, personal property and businesses. The form to acquire a business license to take effect for 2011 will be made available on the Web page by Monday, according to Murphy.

The commissioner credited her staff and county information technology workers for their efforts in redesigning the Web page.

Some business owners have called and given the office kudos for the website, according to Murphy.

"Well, they work all day, they have a family, they come home and there's dinner and there's this and finally, when they get around to doing their books, they go online and do it when it's nice and quiet," Murphy said. "They don't have to leave their office, don't have to drive downtown and try to find a place to park. You know, they're really happy."

"But we realize not everybody will have online access, so we will still make packets available for those that don't," Murphy said.

Office workers hope the redesigned Web page, with its additional features, will cut down on the amount of work and paper, the commissioner said. Likewise, online filing should help people save on postage, she added. Everyone is trying to do more with less, Murphy noted, given the present economy.

Owners opening a new business in the county must still complete paper forms and file the documents with the office for approval. Once approved, the owner then can pay the required fees and taxes online. Owners renewing their business license may do so online.

Murphy used the press conference to remind people who wish to appeal their tax bills because of mileage or damage to their vehicles to gather receipts and other necessary documents in early February in time to file their business license application by March 1. Fees due for business-related equipment, machinery and tools must be filed by March 15. The business license fee must be paid by April 1.

Visit www.frederickcountyva.gov/cor for information and to file business-related forms.

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