The BPOL Tax: A Bicentennial Only Local Governments Could Celebrate

The local governments are at it again. Every year during session they use the tax dollars of those they represent — us! — to lobby directly against our interests. The best example is their years-long opposition to property rights protections, at which they finally failed this session. (By the way, if they claim to represent their residents, why are they afraid of a vote by those same people to ratify or reject property rights?) Now, they are trying to scuttle HB 10, patroned by Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Fredericksburg), which would give a modest — and fair — amount of tax relief to small and family owned businesses by prohibiting localities from increasing their BPOL Tax for four years above what it is during the 2011 license year. But that doesn't sit well with the local government lobby, which has an unquenchable thirst for our hard-earned tax dollars.

The BPOL Tax is one of the least fair of all taxes because it taxes the gross receipts on a business, not its profits. For example, a business that brings in receipts of $500,000 but loses $100,000 gets taxed on the $500,000! This kills small and family owned businesses and stifles job creation.

While local governments talk about their "pain" who speaks for the hardships facing small businesses and individuals? It's almost funny how government always asks us to sacrifice but itself never sacrifices anything —  especially local governments who see themselves as their own entity, rather than stewards of their communities' interests, and are in the game to preserve their interests and power, not unlike any other special interest or industry.

HB 10 passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority (88-12) early in session, but only now is getting its day in the Senate, where it will be heard tomorrow morning in the Finance Committee. One of the many fun things devoid of an already dour session this year is a little-bill- that-could. You hear of them every year, a bill that comes out of nowhere and does some good things. Maybe HB 10 is it.

Last year, Delegates Cole and Sal Iaquinto (R-84, Virginia Beach) were successful in passing some helpful changes to the inherently unfair BPOL Tax, which is "celebrating" its bicentennial year this year — originally levied to pay for the War of 1812Unlike this modest bill, which has a sunset provision, the BPOL Tax was never discontinued when it accomplished its goal 200 years ago — a never-ending tax of dreams for the Big Government types. It's time for a little more for fairness and suppression of the Big Government appetite.

Not only is the BPOL Tax bad policy, it is particularly heinous during a slow economy. The bill also gives localities the option to impose the BPOL Tax on the Virginia taxable income of a corporation, the net income of a sole proprietorship, and the net income of a pass-through entity, which simply is the right and just way to tax businesses.

With so much going on this session, the little-bills-that-could get lost in the pack. But HB 10 can make an impact for tax fairness, job growth and small government with a victory tomorrow in Senate Finance. While local governments fight for themselves, we can fight back.

Please contact senators on the Senate Finance Committee (click here) and urge them to vote for HB 10 tomorrow!