No recommendation, no action on meals tax in Fairfax County - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

No recommendation, no action on meals tax in Fairfax County

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FAIRFAX, Va. -

A task force charged with considering a local restaurant tax in Fairfax County could not come to a consensus on whether to move forward with the idea. It put forth a lengthy report with "no recommendation" on the issue.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to "accept" the report and chose to take no immediate action on the matter. Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) asked the board members to "digest" the report before considering any further move.

When people order food and drink at restaurants in Virginia, they already pay the state sales tax of six percent. Some members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors would love to diversify the county's tax base by following the lead of Alexandria and Falls Church. Those two cities add another four percent to restaurant bills, and that four percent stays in city coffers.

Fairfax County can't do that without seeking the approval of voters. (Cities have the option of imposing such a tax without conducting a referendum.)

Restaurant owners in Fairfax County generally hate the idea of an added tax on meals and are gathering thousands of opposing signatures.

Jon Norton's company owns similar restaurants in both Arlington and Fairfax counties. Arlington did enact the extra meals tax and his firm has seen a difference between the restaurants in the two different jurisdictions.

"We were doing the same volume at some point in time," said Norton, a partner in Great American restaurants. "But since the meals tax [was] enacted in Arlington, we've had 50 percent less growth in that restaurant.”

County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova asked a volunteer task force to look at the idea of a meals tax. Their report runs about 170 pages. But the document offers "no recommendation" on whether to move forward with a meals tax, basically because the panel writing it was divided. The report lists the arguments "for" and the arguments "against" adding a tax to served food and beverages. The report also notes that voters in Fairfax County were asked in the early 1990s to approve a restaurant tax. That measure failed.

Among restaurant patrons, we found little enthusiasm for an extra meals tax.

"No tax," Lydia Patrick told us. "Because I think in the end, it's more important that we support our businesses -- our local businesses."

"[I'm] probably leaning against it," said county resident Andrew Coats. "I think there's enough revenues coming into this county that we can sustain the way that we are now."

"If we're going to impose a tax, [I'd] kind of want to know 'why' and where the money's going to go," asked Adrian Delgado.

The report actually does make a recommendation on that issue: specificity.

The task force says if there is to be a referendum on a meals tax, dedicate the money to one area (education, transportation, etc.) and tell the public that's what the meals tax would be used for.

Although the Board of Supervisors took no immediate action on moving toward a referendum on a meals tax, restaurant owners remain concerned. An organized effort to gather signatures in opposition to a local meals tax will continue in 40 Fairfax County restaurants.


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