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Commonwealth's Counties

Car tax exemption mandate moving forward after all

The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee reversed course earlier this week and reported HJ 103 (Helmer), which would mandate a personal property tax exemption for one motor vehicle owned by a veteran with a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability, and its companion legislation, HB 1268, which places the amendment on the ballot in November.  Earlier in the session, the committee had continued the Senate version of this legislation to 2021, along with a set of other bills dealing with certain tax preferences for veterans.

VACo opposes mandating additional local tax exemptions, as the existing exemption for real property of disabled veterans and their surviving spouses and the surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in action represented an estimated $53 million in lost revenue to localities in 2018, according to information collected by Commissioners of the Revenue.  Localities already have the authority to apply a reduced tax rate to motor vehicles of veterans with certain disabilities, and several localities are already using this authority to provide tax relief.

This is the second year for consideration of the amendment, which must pass twice in identical form before being placed on the ballot; in 2019, the House passed a local-option version, while the Senate preferred the mandatory approach, which ultimately prevailed in conference.  Passage of HJ 103 on the Senate floor is all but assured, and voters can expect to see this exemption as a ballot question in November.  Legislation that would have authorized the state to reimburse localities for foregone revenues associated with the existing mandatory real property tax exemptions was continued to 2021 in the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee; House versions were reported from the House Finance Committee and sent to the House Appropriations Committee, where they were never taken up.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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