By Randy Arrington
LURAY, June 2 — Now that the Virginia legislature has granted jurisdictions beyond towns and cities the authority to levy a tax on cigarettes, counties all across the Commonwealth are lining up to take advantage of the new revenue stream.
“We only have the taxing authority that the state gives us, and we need to take advantage of all revenue streams we have available,” Commissioner of Revenue Becky Smith told supervisors at last night’s work session.
Virginia granted towns and cities the authority to tax individual packs of cigarettes in 2010, but did not afford counties the opportunity until legislation passed last year that now goes into affect July 1. All three towns in Page County have had a cigarette tax in place for nearly a decade.
Smith says the proposed 20-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes would not be implemented among the projected five businesses it would initially impact until Sept. 1.
“The state recommends that we allow 90 days before implementing the tax, to allow time to create a stamp” and give businesses time to prepare for the transition, according to Smith.
The 20-cent per pack rate evolved from current rates already being charged by the three towns — two at 20 cents per pack, and one at 15 cents per pack.
The commissioner of the revenue estimates a $4,000 start-up cost to get the program up and running, with first year revenues projected at $40,000 to $50,000. The commissioner of the revenue’s office will audit and monitor the businesses involved in the program for compliance.
The implementation of 20-cent-per-pack cigarette tax in Page County is expected to go to a vote before the Page County Board of Supervisors following a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, July 20.
The supervisors had a brief discussion about taxing “other products” that may go on the market soon, given the upcoming changes to marijuana laws in Virginia. However, the July 1 change in state code only allows for personal possession of up to one ounce and the cultivation of up to four plants (under certain restrictions) for personal consumption only. The regulations and tax structure surrounding the emerging commercial cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana has yet to be determined by state legislators, who have until 2024 when it will be legal for retail sale.
Meetings of the Page County Board of Supervisors are available both live and on demand through the county’s YouTube channel.