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

Task Force #1

June 24, 2002

The focus of the second meeting of the task force was on the state tax issues, primarily dealing with the income tax.

Income Tax Issues

Staff presented an issue brief for each of 10 income tax issues that described each issue, how the current law affects each issue, the suggested change in the law to deal with each issue, and any revenue impact resulting from the proposed change. The income tax issues included:

1. Conforming to federal law;

2. Eliminating the age deduction;

3. Increasing the standard deduction;

4. Providing a "personal exemption" tax credit or increasing the personal exemption amount;

5. Adopting two tax brackets—one with a 5 percent rate on the first $50,000 of taxable income and one with a 5.75 percent rate on taxable income above $50,000;

6. Taxing social security income;

7. Increasing the tax credit for low-income taxpayers and making it refundable;

8. Eliminating the state income tax and replacing it with a higher sales tax;

9. Examining tax preferences (subtractions, deductions, tax credits); and

10. Overwithholding of income tax.

The task force decided to remove two of the issues (numbers 6 and 8) from further consideration and make no changes in the current law. It was determined that taxing social security income was not good policy or politics. Eliminating the state income tax was also seen as bad policy because the sales and use tax rate would have to be more than three times what it currently is (assuming all of the sales and use tax exemptions remain in effect) to raise the same amount of revenues that the income tax raises.

The remaining issues were discussed at length but no absolute decisions were made regarding their outcome other than all of them are still being considered. There also was some discussion on rate reductions that could result if some or all tax preferences were eliminated. More information regarding the fiscal impact for each issue was gathered and presented during the Task Force’s next meeting on July 16.

July 16, 2002

Earned Income Tax Credit

The task force meeting began with a presentation on the earned income tax credit from a policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The task force came to a consensus that a state earned income tax credit is not an option. Instead the group is looking toward an aggressive approach to deductions and changing the rate structure. Additional discussion ensued around removing the sales tax from food.

Work Session

The task force began its work session with a discussion of the fiscal impact associated with a 100 percent repeal of the personal property tax, to include personal vehicles, business vehicles, and machinery and tools.

Staff gave a brief update on the work of the HJR 209 telecommunications taxation subcommittee. The subcommittee will continue its work by looking at the changes recently made in other states, including Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois, and will report to the joint subcommittee studying the state tax code later this year.

The following issues, identified during previous task force meetings, were presented by staff and discussed by committee members:

1. Appropriate mix of general fund taxes;

2. Distribution of a portion of the state’s annual individual income tax revenues to localities;

3. Constitutional amendment requiring a sharing of state individual income tax revenues with localities;

4. Maintenance of a low tax burden on businesses;

5. Tax incentives for economic growth;

6. Equalization of the taxing authority of counties and cities;

7. No new unfunded mandates on local governments by the Commonwealth;

8. Creation of a tribunal, not located within or reporting to the Department of Taxation, to hear taxpayer appeals;

9. Creation of a permanent body to analyze, on a continuing basis, the fiscal needs and resources of Virginia’s state and local government;

10. Tax simplification—more user friendly; and

11. Local user fees.

An additional subcommittee was formed to look at issues 4 and 5, specifically the preferences (subtractions, deductions, exemptions, tax credits) outlined in the Code. The subcommittee will review the preferences and determine whether they are still effective or obsolete. The task force discussed issue 6 at length and requested additional information about state funding for counties and the difference in services offered between counties and cities.

Several questions were raised by the task force for its next meeting and a request that a representative from the Morris Commission come to explain issue 9, creation of a permanent body to analyze the fiscal needs and resources of state and local government. In addition, the discussion of local user fees and the administrative procedure for tax appeals was placed on the agenda for the next meeting. To date, the task force has received a wealth of information and intends to formulate more concrete policy statements and legislative proposals at its next meeting.

Meeting Schedule Changes

The full joint subcommittee had previously scheduled a meeting for August 19, 2002. Task Force #1 and Task Force #2 agreed that more work needed to be done on their respective issues. As a result, the separate groups will meet and members will be polled for another date for a joint meeting. Task Force #1 members also agreed that public hearings would have to occur later in the year (possibly in October) than previously discussed due to the extended work sessions.

Task Force #2

June 26, 2002

New Zealand Experience

Maurice P. McTigue, a distinguished visiting scholar from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, made a presentation concerning New Zealand’s tax restructuring experience. In particular, Mr. McTigue suggested certain recipes for successful tax restructuring based upon his experience with the New Zealand process.

He suggested, for example, that (i) the public must understand that a problem exists with the current tax structure; (ii) solutions must not be latched onto too quickly in the process of restructuring; and (iii) the new tax system should be one that can last a long time.

Mr. McTigue said that some of the main principles that guided the tax restructuring in New Zealand included: simplicity, fairness, competitiveness, diminished impact on decision-making in the marketplace, and revenue neutrality. He said that all tax preferences should be examined closely. Those that are deemed not in furtherance of a well-defined desired public policy should be abolished and that those that are should be transformed into targeted direct appropriations.

Finally, Mr. McTigue advised that consideration be given to "user fees" where appropriate and that consideration be given to the feasibility of transforming some government organizations into taxpaying entities.


The task force then briefly discussed many of the major issues assigned to it, including

  • What policy to recommend regarding current and future sales and use tax exemptions;
  • Whether to expand the services on which the sales and use tax is imposed;
  • The appropriate rate of sales tax on motor fuels, vehicles, aircraft, and watercraft;
  • Whether Virginia should conform its estate tax to the federal law;
  • Whether the BPOL tax should be abolished and if so, what revenue source(s) would be used to replace the lost revenue; and
  • What sources of revenue (new and old) should localities be able to utilize to increase local revenue.

Regarding the issue of increasing revenues for localities, Chairman McDonnell noted that there are three main ways of accomplishing this goal: (i) the Commonwealth sharing revenues with localities (e.g., a certain portion of income tax revenues); (ii) the Commonwealth assuming all or a portion of the cost of certain local services; and (iii) the Commonwealth permitting new or expanded sources of local revenues (e.g., a local income tax). In this regard, Delegate McDonnell requested that staff obtain information that shows the extent to which localities utilize current tax authority.

The next meeting of Task Force #2 is scheduled for July 30, 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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