Legislation to give counties ability to raise taxes without voter approval being considered NOW
MORE INFO on Tax Parity Issue:
Restaurants, Attractions and Hotels Say Two General Assembly Bills Represent a Nearly $500-million Tax on Industry and Unwitting Consumers

Virginia’s 95 counties have a new target to raise revenue: the restaurants, attractions and hotels that entertain and host locals and visitors alike. That has prompted the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association (VRLTA) to oppose two bills now under consideration in the General Assembly that would give counties the authority to raise potentially job-killing taxes to finance non-tourism related functions.

House Bill 785 and Senate Bill 588 , which are now before committees in both chambers, would permit counties to raise meals taxes by as much as 6% without a local referendum. According to estimates from the Commonwealth itself, it could generate $453-million in new taxes statewide in FY 2022 alone.

Eric Terry, President of the VRLTA, maintains that voters are fed up: “It would be an enormous increase in taxes, and most Virginians don’t like that it can happen without their say-so.”

Of the past 60 attempts to pass a meals tax in counties in Virginia, 47 have failed with approximately 57% of the voters in opposition. Indeed, in a Google survey of 500 registered Virginia voters conducted on behalf of the VRLTA, fewer than one in ten (9.2%) responded that counties should be able to bypass voters to raise taxes.

“Meals taxes are regressive, punishing households less able to absorb the costs,” says Terry. “The consequences are clear: fewer customers dining out means a less-vibrant restaurant scene in Virginia.”

In addition to the higher meals taxes, the two pieces of legislation would:

  • Enable counties to increase lodging taxes beyond 2% without prior approval by the General Assembly and to spend the money on services other than tourism marketing
  • Allow counties to adopt admission taxes without authorization from the legislature and above the current limit of 10%

The state estimates those two levies would add another $26-million annually to the coffers of counties, bringing the overall impact of House Bill 785 and Senate Bill 588 to $479-million.

“Tourism is Virginia’s 5th largest private sector employer and a $26 billion a year industry generating $1.8 billion in state and local taxes and supporting approximately 490,000 jobs in the Old Dominion,” says Terry. “Singling out restaurants, hotels, and attractions to generate funds to pay for general service needs is not fair and will harm businesses, employees and consumers.”
What is VRLTA doing to stop this legislation?
  • On February 14, the VRLTA hand-delivered Valentine cookies to the offices of every delegate and senator, with the message, "Don't Break Our Hearts--or Our Bank Accounts." Legislators were directed to, which highlights why meals taxes are deeply unpopular with voters.
  • VRLTA is running Facebook ads targeted at consumers to generate Phone2Action messages to delegates and senators. A sample ad can be seen here:
  • To date, the ads have generated over 820 comments and 540 shares, as well as over 620 emails to legislators
  • VRLTA is also running a Phone2Action campaign for business owners. This campaign can be found here:
  • A press release was sent to the media on 2/17 to shed light on this issue, and we've already had some media interest.
  • A survey of 500 registered voters, taken on behalf of VRLTA, showed that less than 10% of respondents agree that counties should be able to tax without voter input.
  • Our staff and members are connecting with legislators from both parties to help them understand the impact on restaurants, lodging, and attractions.