HJR 60:Joint Subcommittee to Study and Revise the State Tax Code

Task Force #1

August 19, 2002

Task Force #1 of the joint subcommittee studying the state tax code held its fourth meeting of the year in Richmond. The purpose of the meeting was to hear testimony related to specific issues on the task force list and make further recommendations regarding such issues.



The first issue addressed dealt with the creation of a permanent body to review state and local revenues and expenditures issues on an ongoing basis. This proposal originally came from the Morris Commission. From 1968 to 1979, a body known as the Revenue Resources and Economic Study Commission (RRESC) existed. According to the testimony of John L. Knapp, the research director of the Business and Economics section of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, RRESC's mission was to study the tax structure and sources of revenue of the Commonwealth and its localities and to recommend reforms. The membership of RRESC consisted of senators, delegates, and the public. Initially, the commission had a staff director, with research assistance provided by employees from the Division of State Planning and Community Affairs, the Department of Taxation and the Division of Legislative Services. It finally had its own five-person staff in 1978.

One of the many topics examined on a continual basis was the long-term outlook for state and local government finances, using six-year projections. The commission issued numerous reports and many of its recommendations were adopted into law. As the Senate Finance and House Appropriations staffs, as well as those at the Department of Taxation, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) and the Division of Legislative Services grew, the need for a separate RRESC became less obvious. These additional staff members have been doing much of the research that was formerly done by the RRESC. However, Dr. Knapp believes not enough research is being done to examine the long-term (i.e., six-year) outlook for finances and that a new study commission could take on that task.

Next, the staff directors of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees explained that each of their staffs, as well as the Department of Planning and Budget, routinely conduct technical reviews of funding formulas contained in statutory law and utilized in funding through the appropriations act. When a more thorough examination is required, their staffs rely on the work of JLARC, the State Crime Commission, joint study committees (such as this one), or the executive branch.

In addition, legislation was passed during the 2002 General Assembly Session that requires the governor to submit to the General Assembly in each even-numbered year a long-term financial plan providing a six-year financial outline consisting of (i) the Governor's biennial budget, (ii) estimates of anticipated general and nongeneral fund revenues for each major program, and (iii) estimates of general and nongeneral fund appropriations required for each major program.

It was the consensus of the task force that, while RRESC served a valuable and useful purpose during its tenure, it is not clear that it is currently needed with the additional executive and legislative branch personnel doing most if not all of the same work RRESC did. Also, with the current economic shortfall, finding the money to create such a commission is highly unlikely.

Revenue Sharing

The 50/40/10 revenue sharing plan proposed in the Morris Commission report as a way to return more state income tax revenues to the localities was the next issue on which the task force focused. Members of the Virginia Municipal League (VML) and the Virginia Association of Counties (VACO) are still tweaking the plan and hope to have more information for the full joint subcommittee at its meeting in September. VML and VACO are also working on the list of local mandates imposed by the state, their suggestions concerning how service responsibilities could be better provided at the state and local levels, and which level of government should pay for the services.


Finally, regarding the appeals process issue, the Tax Commissioner described a number of ways the "pay-to-play" requirement and the creation of a separate tribunal might be addressed. The task force discussed allowing the posting of a bond instead of paying the tax, classifying an appeal to the Department of Taxation as a case decision under the APA, having an appellate officer in the Department of Taxation who deals only with appeals, and creating an external appeals process similar to the current process used by the Board of Insurance regarding managed care. The task force did not make a final recommendation regarding the appeals process.

Future Work

Although the task force did not make any further recommendations concerning the issues before it, its members did decide that they should also take a closer look at the service responsibilities of both state and local government and whether some changes should be made in which level of government provides what service. The widely held opinion was that the amount of revenues needed and tax relief available cannot properly be determined without deciding whether some changes in the delivery of services are necessary in order to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth in the best and most efficient manner. Discussion of an additional meeting of a subcommittee of the task force was mentioned but no date was set and no members appointed to the subcommittee. Several task force members expressed concern over the shortfall in revenues of the Commonwealth and suggested that any major tax restructuring might have to be delayed and that the study be continued for a third year. The chairman of Task Force #1 will report to the full joint subcommittee at its next meeting on September 12th in Richmond.

Task Force #2

July 30, 2002

The task force's third meeting began with comments from Delegate McDonnell regarding future meetings and public hearings. Delegate McDonnell reminded attendees that Task Force #1 and Task Force #2 will meet on August 19, 2002. The full joint subcommittee will meet on September 12 at 10:00 a.m. and September 30 at 1:00 p.m. Public hearings across the state will begin in October.


  • The vice president and director of membership for the Virginia Retail Merchants Association gave a presentation on the accelerated sales tax collections. Task force members requested additional information on the policies and procedures of other states related to sales tax collections.
  • The director of community relations for the American Lung Association of Virginia presented information on nationwide cigarette tax statistics, including tax increases nationwide.
  • A representative of various commercial property owners gave a presentation on the real estate tax appeals process, presenting information from a working group that included assessors, assistant county attorneys and representatives from the Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties. Following his presentation, Delegate McDonnell appointed Delegate Griffith to work with the group on the real estate tax appeals process.
  • A citizen from the Newport News area gave personal testimony regarding the equalization process in the Newport News area.
  • Staff made a presentation regarding the BPOL Task Force.

Previous Issues

Staff presented follow-up items from the Task Force #2 meeting (June 26). The items included the following:

  • Taxpayer appeals and "pay to play" provisions. Delegate McDonnell asked Delegate Johnson to work with the Tax Commissioner on the feasibility of i) an independent hearing examiner and ii) prepayment for appeals.
  • Estimated revenues from a statewide 1 percent local individual income tax (presented by Virginia Department of Taxation).
  • Impact of the increasing federal taxable estate threshold and options for repealing the Virginia estate tax (presented by Virginia Department of Taxation).
  • General fund dollars spent on transportation.
  • Projected additional revenue from increasing the motor vehicle, aircraft, and watercraft sales and use taxes.

August 19, 2002

Tax Exemption Subcommittee Report

At the fourth and final meeting of the task force, Delegate Robert D. Orrock, Sr., chairman of the House Finance Special Subcommittee on Sales and Use Tax Exemptions for Nonprofit Entities, presented the final report of the subcommittee. The subcommittee recommended that, effective July 1, 2004, the Department of Taxation administratively grant sales and use tax exemptions to any nonprofit entity that meets the following criteria, to be established by the General Assembly:


1. The entity is federally tax exempt (i) under § 501 (c) (3) or (ii) under § 501 (c) (4) and the entity (if it is under § 501 (c) (4)) is organized for charitable purposes; or

2. The entity has annual receipts less than the threshold required under § 501 (c) (3) and § 501 (c) (4) ($5,000); and

B. The entity is serving the public good and provides a statement as to the specific public good being served; and

C. The entity is in compliance with state solicitation laws; and

D. The entity's administrative costs are less than _____, relative to its gross revenue (no consensus on specific restriction); and

E. If the entity's gross annual revenue was $250,000 or greater in the previous year, then the entity must provide a financial audit performed by an independent certified public accountant; and

F. If the entity filed a federal 990 or 990 EZ tax form with IRS, then it must provide a copy of such form to the Tax Department.

G. If the entity does not file a federal 990 or 990 EZ tax form with IRS, then the entity must provide the following information:

1. A list of the board of directors or other responsible agents of the entity (comprised of at least two individuals), with names and addresses (addresses must be where the individual physically can be found); and

2. The location where the financial records of the entity are available for public inspection.

The duration of each exemption granted by the Tax Department shall be no less than five years and no greater than seven years. To maintain an exemption that otherwise would expire, each entity must provide the Tax Department the same information as required upon initial exemption and meet the same criteria.

The Tax Department shall develop all other reasonable rules and regulations necessary to carry out the exemption process within the constraints set forth herein. The Tax Department shall file an annual report with the Chairmen of the House Finance Committee, the House Appropriations Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee, setting forth the annual fiscal impact of the exemptions for nonprofit entities.


Staff presented an update on the BPOL work group of interested parties. That work group, which has not reached a consensus on any alternatives to recommend, will meet again the first week of September.

A spokesman for the Retail Merchants Association of Greater Richmond, the Retail Alliance of Hampton Roads, and the Virginia Retail Merchants Association presented two alternatives for replacing the BPOL tax: (i) gradually eliminate BPOL over a five-year period and replace the revenue with a .5 percent increase in the sales and use tax and, at the end of five years, by a .25 percent increase in the corporate income tax, or, alternatively, (ii) gradually eliminate BPOL over a 10-year period and replace the lost revenue with a .5 percent increase in the sales and use tax, and, at the end of the 10-year period, by a .25 percent increase in the corporate income tax.

Taxing Authority

Delegate Robert D. Hull discussed a prior legislative study regarding local revenue resources (House Document 69, 1995) and recommended that legislation be adopted giving counties the same taxing authority as cities and towns, as was provided in a bill he introduced last session (HB 16). Representatives of various amusement industries urged the task force not to authorize counties to impose amusement taxes.

Motor Vehicles

The president of the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association made a presentation recommending that the sales and use tax on motor vehicles not be increased. He suggested that the task force examine revenue lost through the understatement of the actual purchase price on "casual sales" (i.e., sales not from a dealer).

Previous Meeting

Staff presented follow-up information from the July 30th task force meeting including: (i) categories of services on which sales and use tax might be imposed, (ii) state-by-state comparisons in vendors' payment schedules for remitting sales and use taxes collected, (iii) state-by-state comparisons of state death taxes, (iv) state-by-state comparisons of cigarette taxes, (v) local cigarette tax rates in Virginia, (vi) estimates for a tax on the manufacture of cigarettes, (vii) estimates on the fiscal impact of reducing the taxable price of a motor vehicle by the value of any trade-in, and (viii) information on the general and non-general funds for transportation in Virginia.


The task force then considered each of the issues that had been assigned to it. Some of the task force's recommendations included: (i) adoption of the Orrock Subcommittee's recommendations on sales and use tax exemptions for nonprofit entities, with the proviso that the current moratorium on any new sales and use tax exemptions continue at least until budget pressures ease; (ii) impose the sales and use tax on personal services and repair services, and consider removing the exemption provided to various public service corporations; (iii) eliminate the accelerated sales tax payments by vendors; (iv) maintain the status quo of no new taxes on Internet access or digital downloads; and (v) eliminate the 1978 "freeze date" in Virginia's estate tax so that the tax will be phased out over a four-year period like most other states in conformity with the federal Tax Relief Act of 2001. For a full accounting of all action taken on each issue, refer to the revised Task Force #2 Issue Form posted on the HJR 60 Joint Subcommittee website.

The task force will report its recommendations to the full HJR 60 Joint Subcommittee on September 12, 2002, at 10:00 a.m. in Senate Room A of the General Assembly Building.


The Hon. Emmett W. Hanger
The Hon. Robert F. McDonnell

For information, contact:

Joan E. Putney
Mark Vucci
David Rosenberg
Division of Legislative Services

Website: http://dls.state.va.us/taxcode.htm


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