Vets could get car tax break

Published 9:05 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Disabled veterans living in Suffolk may soon be getting a break on their car tax.

City Council voted Wednesday to direct staff to prepare a resolution that would cut the personal property tax in half for certain disabled veterans who qualify under the state code.

Those eligible would be veterans who have lost — or lost the use of — a leg, arm or hand, or are blind, or are permanently and totally disabled as certified by the Department of Veterans Services.

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The exemption could cost up to $450,000, Budget Director Anne Seward said during Wednesday’s work session. The amount is based on numbers provided by the U.S. Census Bureau of Suffolk veterans with service-connected disabilities, as well as numbers provided by the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office of the average vehicle value registered with disabled veteran tags.

But the actual amount the exemption costs the city will be much lower, Seward said. Not all the 2,598 Suffolk veterans who have a service-connected disability will be eligible, and all those eligible might not apply to receive the exemption.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn said staff recommended a 50-percent reduction, because that falls in the middle of what other Hampton Roads localities offer. Area discounts range from 31 percent in Norfolk to nearly 100 percent in Hampton.

Councilman Roger Fawcett said he would prefer to give a 25-percent break at the beginning in order to gauge the actual cost of the program.

“I don’t think that’s ungenerous,” he said, although he still joined in the unanimous vote in favor of the 50-percent number.

Seward said the city should be careful of providing too many tax breaks. The taxes on more than $1.2 billion worth of property already is written off every year because the property is owned by government or government agencies, religious or charitable organizations, elderly and disabled citizens, veterans or others exempt from paying taxes.

“These reductions have to be made up by tax increases to the remaining taxpaying public,” she said.

Once the final resolution is passed by council members, the program would go into effect July 2014 and would not be retroactive. Only one vehicle per veteran would get the discount.

The city would become only the 13th locality in the state to provide such an exemption.