Recently, my wife and I decided to start a business together. We filed all the necessary paperwork with the federal and state governments. We thought we had all the bases covered, until we received a request from Culpeper County to report the cost of any equipment from the past year, so it could be taxed.

My wife received a 1099 tax form for a side job she had last year, so the county automatically assumed she was operating a business. After looking into it more, the county wanted to know if she used a computer or furniture or anything it could tax. I am not talking about things purchased only in the last year, but things purchased anytime in her life that she may still be using.

Now that we have officially started running a business, that will be the case for everything moving forward. This tax is called a business personal property tax, and it was created in the pit of hell.

Do we really expect our county and town to grow economically when we are taxing everything that moves or can be moved, in perpetuity? I can see taxing something once it is purchased, but taxing items that were purchased two years or decades ago?

For those who don’t own a business, you can relate on some level because you pay personal property taxes on cars, boats, trailers and so on. The newer the car, the more tax you pay through the nose. That’s a tax every year, no matter how old it is. So for businesses and individuals, you never really own your personal property, you just rent it from the government.

I am asking Culpeper elected officials: Can we agree that the business and individual personal property taxes are one sick beast and need to be done away with or reformed?

So far, the answer has been no. That’s because most officials lack boldness and creativity to figure out a way to free people from this financial noose and readjust our taxing formulas. It would take work by our politicians and local administrators to make a policy shift.

Already, I can hear the objections from the politicians: If we get rid of personal property taxes, where’s the money going to come from to fill the hole in the budget? Scare tactics will be deployed; if you do away with the personal property tax, that means we will have to raise real-estate taxes. Both of these are legitimate objections, but they lack vision.

I would like to take a poll of Culpeper residents. How many of you believe the town and county are running at 100 percent efficiency, and there is no place to cut or move money around?

Furthermore, I would like for the county and town to conduct performance audits of our departments to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of how we do local government. An audit would give us a true baseline as to how much government services really cost our county.

I believe we can reform and/or abolish the business personal property tax and personal property tax on vehicles. But the public cannot be complacent about it. People must demand it.

Starting a small business is a wonderful labor of love. A lot of hard work, sweat and tears go into making a business venture turn a profit and thrive.

A Culpeper town councilman and a Republican, Jon Russell founded and is the national director of the American City County Exchange, an affiliate of the American Legislative Exchange Council. His views are his own.

(1) comment

MICHAEL MCCLARY

Oh, please. The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors, which levies our local taxes, are almost all Republicans, that you proudly supported in the last election. They are YOUR creatures. If you don't like your taxes, speak to your ilk. I don't want to hear your whining.

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