A series of emergency ordinances approved this week will allow businesses and property owners in some Richmond-area localities to postpone payment on upcoming tax bills without any penalties.
Henrico County last week became the first locality in the region to freeze late fees and interest on lodging tax and meals tax payments. Chesterfield and Hanover counties adopted similar relief measures on lodging taxes Wednesday night.
Richmond hasn’t yet acted on a proposed tax amnesty program for hotels and restaurants.
The tax relief measures help hotels and restaurants with cash flow issues and gives them some financial breathing room, experts say.
On Tuesday, the Henrico Board of Supervisors extended the tax freeze on hotels and restaurants from June 22 to Aug. 20 and expanded it to include real estate and personal property taxes. Instead of those taxes being due June 5, residents will have until Aug. 5 to pay them without incurring any late fees or interest.
“We did the hotel and meals tax first because those are additional taxes” businesses have to pay, Henrico board Chairman Tommy Branin said Tuesday evening. “We’ve been talking to a lot of business, but it needs to be made clear that this is for all of our citizens as well.”
In addition to the tax relief measures, Henrico also has announced an initiative to purchase meals from locally owned restaurants for public safety workers and other employees leading the community’s response to the pandemic. To be eligible, a restaurant or related business must be locally owned, located in Henrico and able to accept credit card payments. Businesses can apply to be on a shortlist by visiting henrico.us/restaurants.
On Wednesday, Chesterfield and Hanover counties adopted measures that pause late fees and interest on forthcoming lodging tax payments and utility bills.
Chesterfield’s measure will remain for 30 days following the conclusion of its state of emergency. The freeze in Hanover will remain in effect until May 23.
“They’re not off the hook for paying these, but it at least gives them a little bit of relief,” Hanover County Attorney Dennis Walter said while presenting the ordinance.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has proposed an amnesty period on penalties and interest for most local taxes through June 30. The initiative has broad support on the City Council.
An ordinance establishing the amnesty program was slated to be introduced at Monday’s council meeting, which was canceled. It will be introduced when the council reconvenes. Its next meeting is scheduled for April 13, but a special meeting could be arranged before then.
Whenever it meets next, the council also is expected to extend the application period for the city’s real estate tax relief program for seniors and people with disabilities. Its deadline would shift from the end of March into mid-May, according to a release issued Tuesday.
Localities are taking the actions as business owners worry about how to pay bills, including whether they can continue paying all of their employees now that nonessential businesses are closed for at least 30 days under order of Gov. Ralph Northam.
“Every move to help businesses maintain liquidity will postpone downsizing or keep it to a minimum,” said Brian Anderson, CEO of ChamberRVA. “I applaud our officials for approving those kinds of actions.”