Board tables cigarette tax

Published 2:07 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cumberland County supervisors tabled a resolution last week asking the Virginia General Assembly to allow all counties to tax the use and sale of cigarettes. Supervisors said they will seek clarification on the request’s wording.

Support for the amendment to the state’s Code of Virginia comes from Wythe County officials, who seek to “enable all Virginia counties to levy tax upon the sale or use of cigarettes,” according to the tabled resolution.

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The resolution, if supervisors were to ultimately adopt it, would state the county has identified a cigarette tax as a means to lessen the property tax burden. It also states the authority to implement such a tax has been previously approved by state legislation for certain counties and cities and towns in the commonwealth. The resolution seeks to expand that authority to all counties.

“I think it’s very vague as far as the definition,” District Three Supervisor Kevin Ingle said, referencing a comment that the resolution didn’t detail whether the potential tax would apply to more than cigarettes. “I think the taxes ought to be evenly distributed amongst all businesses and all products.”

Ingle added that, if the potential to tax cigarettes is enabled, it should apply to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

“I just hate to see an item picked out, whether it’s a good item or bad item, and singled out,” Ingle said. “We don’t go to (District Five Supervisor Parker) Wheeler’s restaurant and say, ‘There’ll be a 5-cent extra tax for french fries but not the hamburger.’ Tax people evenly, fairly.”

According to the Code of Virginia, Fairfax and Arlington are the only counties with the power to levy taxes on the sale or use of cigarettes. They cannot exceed 5 cents a pack or the amount levied under state law, whichever is greater.

The Virginia General Assembly would have have to amend the code in order to grant such ability to other counties, such as Cumberland.