Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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January 21, 2013

Jobs done as hobby still require licenses in Va

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — Roanoke-based guitarist Bob Casey plays a lot of music, but he had never considered it to be more than anything but a glorified hobby.

Occasional gigs put money in his pocket during his years at Virginia Western Community College. After he started working at Verizon's central office about 13 years ago, he kept playing. But he never thought that he had a business.

Turns out, he does.

About a month ago, he received a bill for two years of Roanoke business license fees, including a bill for delinquency. It added up to $124. Then he received a bill for a 2013 business license, along with a worksheet for him to declare the tools of his trade -- guitars, amps and the like. He is still calculating that one.

For Casey, the first-time notices were "a downer." But he paid it all.

"I just figured, I'm not going to fight this. They're right. It is a business," Casey said. "But it does take the joy out of it."

He added: "I don't think this is a 'woe is me' story. It's really a 'Whoa, how did this happen?'"

Musicians, handyman businesses, part-time landscapers and even people who make money officiating sports are among those regularly surprised by the business license law, officials in Roanoke and Roanoke County said. "I think in most cases, it's just that people simply don't realize they need to get a license," said Jerome Hoer, master deputy commissioner in Roanoke County.

The notices are out now because the commissioner of the revenue's office has been running through the annual dump of business income filings it receives yearly from the Virginia Department of Taxation, said Patrick Woods, business license inspector/auditor for Roanoke.

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