Thousands of businesses in the city of L.A. received a New Year's gift this week as their business taxes were either lowered or eliminated completely, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Wednesday.

Villaraigosa spoke at a press conference calling attention to business tax reforms enacted by the City Council and former Mayor James Hahn in Nov. 2004 and that began to take effect this week.

"These measures send the message loud and clear that Los Angeles is business-friendly and we will do everything possible to retain and attract businesses that grow our local economy," Villaraigosa said.

Under the package crafted in 2004 by Councilmembers Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, businesses reporting less than $100,000 in sales during the 2005 calendar year are not required to pay any business tax.

Businesses with sales greater than $100,000 received a 3.1 percent cut in their business tax effective Jan. 1, with additional 3 percent cuts expected in each of the next four years. The package also includes business tax exemptions for creative artists and most entertainment-related businesses with annual gross receipts less than $300,000.

The estimated total savings to business is estimated at $92 million over the next four years.

Villaraigosa said the city is now informing business owners of the changes. Even if businesses fall within the $100,000 exemption, they are still required to file paperwork to that effect with the city's Office of Finance, he said. The deadline for filing business taxes is Feb. 28.

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