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November 4, 2010
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Did you hear that whooshing sound?  That was the collective sigh of relief from localities embraced by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority who have levied a special transportation tax against commercial property owners while exempting residential property owners from that same tax.  The Supreme Court released its opinion this morning that commercial and industrial property owners may be taxed for transportation improvements (such as the Dulles Metro extension) while multifamily and other residential properties may be exempted from the tax.  Here's a copy of the opinion.  The Supreme Court had granted the appeal back in April and heard the arguments in mid-September.

As many of our readers know, the new Crystal City Sector Plan was considered last night (see here for our prior analysis of the proposed plan), but did you know it contained a proposal for a Tax Increment Financing ("TIF") fund  to include the Crystal City, Potomac Yard and Pentagon City areas at the same time?

September 1, 2010
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For those of you out there who are following whether commercial real estate can be taxed at a different rate than residential property, FFW Enterprises v. Fairfax County, et al. has been slated for the Supreme Court's September arguments docket.  Like most other states, in the Commonwealth of Virginia the Constitution contains a "Uniformity Clause" which was intended to prevent the General Assembly from allowing the taxation of different classifications of real property in an inequitable manner.  Specifically, Article X, Section 1 of the Constitution of Virginia provides:

"...All taxes shall be levied and collected under general laws and shall be uniform upon the same class of subjects within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax, except that the General Assembly may provide for differences in the rate of taxation to be imposed upon real estate by a city or town within all or parts of areas added to its territorial limits..."

TaxLast week, Montgomery County, Maryland passed what has been described as the nation's first local carbon tax.  The tax imposes $5 per ton on any entity that emits more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide in a single year.  Interestingly, the tax only applies to Mirant Corporation which owns the Dickerson Generating Plant in Montgomery County.  Mirant will reportedly challenge the tax in court.  The county also passed an 85% increase on its energy use tax.

Here is a new sampling of cases in which the Virginia Supreme Court has recently granted appeals.

In April, the Court granted the petition for appeal in Studio Center Corporation v. WKW Construction, LLC, Record No. 092257, challenging the ruling of Judge Shockley from the Circuit Court of the City of Virginia Beach. Studio Center is contesting Judge Shockley’s holding that Virginia Code Section 54.1-1115(C) applied when the unlicensed contractor admitted it knew Virginia law required a license, but did not realize that it could not use someone else’s license. This case should give us some much needed guidance on Section 54.1-1115(C)’s requirement of “good faith” and “actual knowledge.”

If you are an owner or operator of affordable rental housing (property with four or more units), it might be worth noting that the General Assembly has just restricted your local real estate tax assessor's discretion to value your property to one method.   Senator Whipple, apparently at the request of the Virginia Housing Commission, patroned a bill passed by both houses this session to amend Section 58.1-3295, requiring localities to assess real property being operated as affordable rental housing solely via the income valuation approach.  Presumably, the reason for this was that local assessors have been trying to tax committed affordable rental housing (i.e. housing that is legally bound to remain and operate as affordable housing at limited rents), at rates that do not reflect these income stream restrictions, by using methods to determine fair market value other than the income approach.

March 10, 2010
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Topics Taxes

It looks like “Punt” is the name of the game with Virginia tax reform. In a January 5, 2010 blog post and a January 20, 2010 blog post, I discussed four tax reform proposals – all of which the General Assembly has managed to put off until a later date.

Apparently, HB 57 got the most traction. This was the bill proposing to prohibit any locality that had not already imposed a BPOL tax from doing so and prohibiting any increase in BPOL tax rates. The House passed that bill with a resounding 88 to 8 vote, but the Senate referred the bill to the Committee on Finance and continued a vote on the bill until 2011.

Virginia Delegate Mark Cole is up to it again, proposing another amendment to the business, professional and occupational (“BPOL”) tax laws. Delegate Cole sits on the House of Delegates Finance Committee, and represents the 88th District, spanning Stafford, Spotsylvania and Fauquier Counties and the Town of Remington. As you may recall from my last blog post on proposed business tax reforms in the Commonwealth, he sponsored HB 57, which would freeze BPOL tax rates, and prohibit those localities that do not have a BPOL tax from imposing one.

January 5, 2010
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Topics Taxes

Tax reform means “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree.” – Russell Long, U.S. Senator from Louisiana, 1948-1987.

Despite the budget crisis facing the Commonwealth and local jurisdictions all around Virginia, the General Assembly is considering new tax credits and limits in its upcoming session.

HB 2 proposes a tax credit equal to ten percent of the eligible investments made by small business tax payers in personal property and real estate improvements used in the business. Acquisition of or expenses related to motor vehicles used in the business and purchase or rental of real estate will not qualify as eligible investments. Qualifying investments must be at least $10,000 and must be made beginning July 1, 2010 but before July 1, 2011. For purposes of this proposed tax credit, a business qualifies as “small” if it has 500 or fewer employees. The patrons of HB 2 are Delegate Manoli Loupassi of the 68th District, which includes parts of Chesterfield County and the City of Richmond, and Delegate Christopher Peace of the 97th District, which includes parts of Hanover, Caroline, Henrico, Spotsylvania, King William and King and Queen Counties.

October 18, 2009
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Topics Taxes

As a follow up from an earlier blog post discussing tax amnesty programs in the Washington Metropolitan area, Nancy Trejos's article in the Washington Post today discussed Maryland's tax amnesty program that extends until October 30 and Virginia's program that gives residents until December 5.  The District of Columbia has also approved a tax amnesty program, but has not yet announced the relevant dates.  There's no better time than the present if you owe any back taxes!