In a recent meeting, Fairfax County Supervisors went back to the well of bad ideas to bring back a rerun that almost nobody in Fairfax County wants to watch.
The “meals tax” would levy up to a 4 percent tax for consumers to pay on all food and drinks purchased at restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, doughnut and coffee shops, and convenience stores across the county. It is taxation without justification at its worst and our county supervisors are eyeing the November ballot for voters to consider it…again.
Far from a sin or luxury tax, the meals tax isn’t targeted to those with disposable income and a night-on-the-town splurge. The biggest targets are Fairfax County residents who regularly rely on restaurants, whether it’s the drive thru in between sports games, the coffee before a long commute to work or the convenience store for a quick snack.
The meals tax would add another layer of burden on families that already have too much to worry about. Earlier this month, Fairfax County Supervisors introduced a real estate tax hike proposal that, if approved, would raise the average homeowner’s bill by more than $300. Family budgets are already being stretched to the limit from layers of taxes and higher costs from increased tolls, higher insurance premiums and more.
Furthermore, the meals tax would single out only hospitality and tourism, which has been unfairly targeted as an industry, putting even more of a burden on local businesses that are a vital component to a healthy Fairfax County economy. Restaurants alone employ more than 35,000 people in Fairfax County making them one of the largest employers in the county.
Fairfax County currently has pricing that is more competitive when compared to D.C. and neighboring Maryland counties. Because of this, many large groups and organizations choose to host their breakfasts, galas, conventions and conferences here. These events collectively generate million in annual revenue for the county. Raising the food tax rate would drive up costs and significantly increase the risk of having these large events leave Fairfax County, negatively impacting local businesses and the employees that depend on that income.
In a county stressed with a high cost of living and rising property taxes, the meals tax seems like the last straw. Fortunately, voters have rejected the meals tax in the past. A Fairfax County meals tax was put to a voter referendum in April 1992, but was resoundingly defeated by voters 58 percent to 42 percent. Similarly, Loudoun County held a referendum for a meals tax in November 2008 but it failed by a vote of 70 percent to 30 percent. The last time Fairfax County brought up the meals tax in 2014, it barely got out of the starting blocks and died quietly in a study committee. This latest proposal deserves a similar fate.
Claude Andersen, Operations Manager, Clyde’s Restaurant Group
Jeff Newman, President, Glory Days Grill Restaurants
Jon Norton, Great American Restaurants