Tag Archives: Taxes

A fowl tax

This hen will now cost you $165 to “permit” you to have a chicken coop.

This hen will now cost you $165 to “permit” you to have a chicken coop.

The County is taxing Western Loudoun farm buildings, by the authority of the Commissioner of Revenue, by assessing pole barns for taxes that the County never assessed before this year.

Even among those barns that were assessed previously, farm owners have been confounded by by the amazing leaps in assessed value.

In one case, the increase in assessment was a factor of thirteen times greater, from a $2,000 assessment last year on a 60 year old barn to a $26,000 assessment this year, with the questionable explanation, by the assessor, that the owner of the barn had painted the barn.

Farmers say this arbitrary policy of assessments is hardly reasonable and is fundamentally unfair.

In another setback for farmers in the West, following upon these Assessments, the County, by a new Zoning Ordinance, circulated this past Friday, requires that farmers obtain a permit for each chicken coop that a farmer has or acquires.

This is how the current zoning permit procedure reads.

It is described as the “procedure for obtaining a zoning permit for a coop/shelter for chickens.”

It says, “the property owner shall complete a building and zoning permit application form … that is accompanied by a plat showing the proposed location of the structure with distances to property lines …”

The term, “shall,” makes this requirement mandatory, and not permissive.

The permit fee – apparently mandated for each separate coop – costs $165 each.

The coop is described as a “structure.”

Farmers have asked the Commissioner of Revenue in connection with the increased assessments, to explain exactly what the Commissioner meant by the term “structure.”  The Farmers are of one mind that they got no answer at all.

As for the coops, chickens generally live mostly in small mobile boxes that house or protect them from the elements and from predators.

These coops are not large stationary structures that required a zoning permit or a health department permit in the past.

It is hard to make out a fair rationale, Farmers say, when the County requires permits for chicken coops about the same size as a dog-house but require no permits for a dog house. Continue reading

Taxes, Schools, and Sidewalks

Kids went to school one day this week. This marks the second week this winter where the Loudoun Schools have only been in session for one day. Many members of the community are incensed at the fact that our kids have been kept home so often this year. They complain that it is “just a little snow and cold,” and where they’re from originally, this kind of “wussiness” in the face of winter wouldn’t be tolerated.IcySidewalkTweet

Funny thing about that, though: Where they’re from originally, there is a long-standing local commitment to the public’s responsibility to take care of public infrastructure, like schools and transportation infrastructure, at the public’s expense. Here in Loudoun County, Republicans who run the Board of Supervisors and the School Board, not to mention those in the House of Delegates, have no such commitment. On the contrary, there is an attitude of “Starving the Beast” when it comes to public services and investment. As if our children’s education were a Beast of some sort.

Continue reading

Saving For A “Rainy Day” – Not Really!

Saving for a “rainy day” (Photo by John P. Flannery)

Saving for a “rainy day” (Photo by John P. Flannery)

A recent poll said that 40% of our friends and neighbors have made their New Year’s resolution – to save more – in savings accounts, automatic transfers, savings bonds, and certificates of deposit.

We once did save at a decent rate.  Our national saving rate was 12.2% in November 1981.  But the rate fell like a stone starting in 1982 and went as low as less than 1% a number of times between 2000 and 2010.  Easy credit meant you didn’t have to save – so some wrongly thought.

The rate climbed back up when the 2008 recession hit, going from 1.3% in January 2008 to 4.2% in December of 2009.

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, says our current rate of savings is an anemic 4.2%.

The dilemma for families that want to save is that they likely owe in debt at a higher interest rate than what they can get saving their money.  From 1990 to 2008, the nation’s citizens were convinced, Benjamin Franklin’s advice to the contrary notwithstanding, that being a borrower was not so bad.  Unfortunately, if a nation’s citizens don’t save, then the nation has to borrow from other nation-states who do save. Continue reading

An easy Reform Commission cut

Dear Loudoun County Government Reform Commission,

I have a way for you to immediately save Loudoun County taxpayers one quarter of a million dollars per year.

That is the amount of revenue the county is not receiving due to the property tax exemption granted in late 2003 to the massive Loudoun compound of Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries/Colson Center.

Our tax dollars at work.

Rescind it. PFM doesn’t qualify for a tax exemption. Tax exempt entities in Loudoun are not permitted to engage in partisan political advocacy and propaganda, and that is precisely what Chuck Colson uses his organization to do. Case in point – as discussed here, Chuck Colson has fabricated and repeatedly disseminated the following two big, honking falsehoods: that President Obama has redefined “freedom of religion” to be a more narrow concept of “freedom of worship,” and that the Affordable Care Act mandate to employers to provide contraceptive coverage as part of comprehensive health insurance plans is something new, and is “the most important issue — I really think the most important I’ve faced in my ministry, and the greatest threat to America, the greatest threat to us as Christians.” But in fact: Continue reading


[Promoted by Liz, because YEAH! What she said!]

Below is a small sampling of financial data from three diverse corporations (Intel, Home Depot and Walmart). See for yourself. Research more if you like, by going to Google and typing in “company name, financials 2011 annual.”

If these companies and others like them are not creating jobs, it is because they don’t want to. Giving them tax-free money won’t change that. (Is it possible that the only entity that will actually create jobs would be government projects for infrastructure, education and research?)

Further, when looking at financial statements, keep in mind that the net profit shown on an Income Statement is NOT the net income reported to the IRS. There are markedly different rules for depreciation between Generally Accepted Accounting Principles required for SEC filing and the rules for IRS reporting: http://www.section179.org/ (on tax reports, a company can write off 100% of new equipment purchased and placed in service this year…. And $500,000 more of used equipment.)
AND yet the corporate world thinks the only way to balance the US budget is to refuse to honor the Federal contract with its elderly—the workforce that built this wealth over the last 50 years, while paying into funds to ease their end of life.

Think about it.

What kind of people are we?
Intel (December 2010) Earnings per share doubled over last two years; and cash and cash equivalents: $21,000,000,000 +

Home Depot (January 2011) Earnings per share increased 150% over last two years; cash and cash equivalents: $545,000,000

Walmart (January 2011)
Net Cash provided by operating activities: $23,643,000,000

“In fiscal 2011, we recorded $434 million in net tax benefits that resulted primarily
from the repatriation of certain non-U.S. earnings that increased U.S. foreign tax
credits and favorable adjustments to transfer pricing agreements.” – Annual report
Dividends paid to stockholders doubled over the previous 5 years.

You know, out of touch.

Leesburg Patch has a great article up about former Supervisor, and LCRC candidate for Board of Supervisors Chair, Steve Stockman. It illustrates Mr. Stockman’s status as a candidate with little connection with the reality lived by people here in Loudoun County, as well as his limitations as a candidate.

Steve Stockman’s only care seems to be a single issue, “taxes,” with little or no comprehension of the myriad things that drive that issue. For example, the incredible growth in the school population since he last served on the Board has a huge, and largely unavoidable, impact on the revenue necessary to run the LCPS, the largest single driver of the county tax rate. Mr. Stockman’s position seems to be that we can set a low tax rate and let all the necessary services simply wither to accommodate that rate. Of course, recent court cases have demonstrated that to be a fundamentally flawed assumption. In California, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state to release inmates since Gov. Schwarzenegger and his allies decided to grossly underfund their prison system. In New Jersey, the State Supreme Court ordered Gov. Christie to fund underperforming schools, over the efforts of the Gov. and his allies to let school spending wither. Mr. Stockman’s “cut and wither” policy proposals do not lead to lower taxes, they lead to lawsuits. And didn’t we have enough of those under the last Board?

But perhaps nothing illustrates Mr. Stockman’s inability to comprehend the realities of living in the County he seeks to lead like this quote:

Some issues of great concern to some candidates are of little concern to Stockman, such as transportation, which he considers “not that big” of an issue because people choose where to live.

“You can make improvements around the margins, but people will decide to live and commute based on their own individual choices,” he said. “You know, commuting, it’s all voluntary.” – Leesburg Patch

Or this quote, detailing his opposition to Metro to Dulles.

While the current board of supervisors has signaled concerns about the Metro project – primarily that if the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority wants a more costly underground station, it should find the money without tolls or local tax dollars – Stockman is cool to the idea for other reasons.

“I’m not too enthusiastic,” he said. “I know we want it to [Dulles] airport and a lot of people think it’s going to be a godsend. I don’t think it is. I think that American people prefer to have private transportation. Mostly, right now, Metro’s running at a deficit. “

Now, I know Mr. Stockman owns his own company, and therefore hasn’t had to find a decent paying job and a place to live recently. And as the article points out, his kids have long since moved out, so he doesn’t have to worry about ferrying them to events, or taking schools into account along with commute, home prices, cost of living, and other factors when looking for somewhere to live. So maybe, in that context, he could be forgiven his appalling ignorance of the impact of long commutes on Loudoun families (not to mention our environment and the attendant traffic externalities that impact the quality of life for everyone in Loudoun).

But in the context of being a candidate to Chair the Board of Supervisors? In that context, the ignorance and lack of concern for one of the most important realities for all of us in Loudoun – commuting – is enough to disqualify him as a serious candidate for office.

Or, rather, it should disqualify him. Whether it does is up to the LCRC.

House votes to de-fund NPR

So far, they’ve tackled: removing funding from Metro; medicaid payments for abortions; taking away funding for basic women’s health care (pap smears and breast exams); and taking away enforcement power from the EPA.

Now they’ve taken funding away from NPR.

But they haven’t even begun on a single jobs bill.

Weren’t jobs their biggest priority back in November?

#DearJohn, #WhereAreTheJobs?

We Can’t Cut Our Way Out

There’s a sense in the air that the answer to our problems, be it economy, deficit or schools, is to cut, cut, cut. Cut salaries, cut benefits, cut programs. On the surface, the logic of cutting makes some kind of sense. There are deficits at the Federal and State level (no, Virginia’s budget is not in balance if you fail to make payments into the state retirement fund), and spending less is one of the common prescriptions for closing deficits.

The dirty truth, however, is that no long-term government deficit has ever been solved simply by cutting the budget. Budget cuts are net drags on an economy, and a shrinking economy exacerbates budget problems by yielding shrinking revenues for the government, which makes deficits worse, which creates incentives for more cuts, which further drag the economy… It’s a vicious, downward cycle that leads to malaise and bankruptcy.

The fact is that the only thing that has ever truly balanced a major government budget is economic growth. That’s it. All other supposed “answers” are simply second-order results of robust economic growth. So, if you are truly in favor of balanced budgets, you must be in favor of policies that encourage economic growth.

Ah, but there’s a catch. The type of growth matters. If you look at the history of balanced Federal budgets, they came near the middle and end of periods of economic growth in which the bottom 50% of households saw their incomes rise and fortunes improve.

Follow below the fold for a short, and by no means complete, historical survey of balanced budgets. Continue reading

Free Tax Preparation from Loudoun County

Did you know that Loudoun County provides free help preparing taxes for families making less than $49,000/year?

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Program) offers free tax services for individuals and families in Loudoun County earning $49,000 or less. Walk-ins are welcome for one-on-one assistance. Two locations are available in Leesburg:

* Loudoun County Workforce Resource Center, 102 Heritage Way N.E., Tuesdays & Thursdays, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 12 noon
* Rust Library, 380 Old Waterford Road, Mondays & Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

AARP offers free tax preparation services at two locations in Sterling:

* Cascades Library, 21030 Whitfield Place, Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and Wednesdays, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
* Falcons Landing, Algonkian Parkway & Potomac View Road, Monday, Thursday & Saturday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Customers must call for appointment, 703-404-5216.

Services are provided by trained and certified volunteers who will complete accurate and secure returns for both individuals and families. Families earning up to $57,000 who would like to complete their own taxes may go to: www.myfreetaxes.com/metrodc. Tax preparation at either a VITA or AARP site or at a free online site is fast, easy, safe and secure. For a list of additional sites in Northern Virginia visit www.nvacash.org. – Loudoun.gov

What a great program!

Leesburg Today: “Work v. Rhetoric”

Leesburg Today had a little-noted, but spot-on editorial in last week’s edition. It’s worth quoting in its entirety.

Work v. Rhetoric

The wringing of hands over the Board of Supervisors’ efforts to set the upper limit on County Administrator Tim Hemstreet’s advertised real estate tax rate provides an early illustration of the pitfalls inherent in the formulation of an election-year budget. The advertised tax rate has no impact on the final budget outcome. Supervisors can, in fact, adopt a higher rate; state law requires only that it be re-advertised. The only thing that can make a difference is a collection of five votes. Those truly interested in cutting taxes would be better served by investing time in the research and coalition building needed to win those five votes. In November the candidates should be judged by their ability to get things done, not by the number of speeches they make condemning the actions of those who do that work. – Leesburg Today


(Though it is worth noting that the Board of Supervisors can also enact a lower rate than the $1.33 advertised, and without re-advertising rates. Go read Supervisor Miller’s excellent tax rate  explanation to learn more.)

For three years, our Democrats on the Board of Supervisors have dedicated themselves do doing that work. We have managed growth, built schools, finished roads, planned our energy future, and kept the County’s budget balanced and our credit rating high through it all.

Something to keep in mind this year.