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For the first time since 2012, D.C.’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs will run an “amnesty program” that will allow businesses to comply with local regulations related to licensing and registration without them having to pay certain penalties like those for late renewals and not filing reports.

Starting Jan. 1 and lasting through Feb. 29, 2016, the program offers D.C.-based businesses the opportunity to renew their expired licenses at the price required of brand new entities rather than those that have accrued fees over time. Participation could save businesses potentially thousands of dollars: Failing to renew a business license costs between $250 and $500 per licensing period, not submitting required corporate biennial reports costs $400 per missing report, and reinstating a corporation in revoked status costs $300, meaning all those fees can rack up into the thousands if not paid in years.

“For businesses—particularly small ones—who encounter financial setbacks, the late fees can present entry barriers,” explains DCRA Director of Legislative and Public Affairs Matt Orlins, in an email to City Desk. “In 2012, DCRA found a significant increase in business licensing revenue during the amnesty program. That told us that many businesses in the District wanted to come into compliance, but needed an opportunity.”

Hundreds of businesses participated in the 2012 program, Orlins adds. However, fines associated with “notices of infraction” for “affirmative actions of wrongdoing,” such as illegal construction, would still apply. In turn, business owners could appeal those NOIs to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

The following types of businesses are eligible to participate in the program:

  • Businesses operating under an expired license
  • Businesses operating without a license, or corporate registration in revoked status
  • Businesses operating without registration of commercial weights and scales, UPC, scanners, etc.

In D.C., business licensing fees range from $35 to $1300.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery