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The Right Note: Eliminating the BPOL Tax?

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

For years, I have advocated for eliminating the anti-business Business, Professional and Occupational License or BPOL tax.

Now comes news that Arlington officials are looking for a way to slash the tax for Amazon, or eliminate their requirement to pay altogether.

The BPOL is a tax levied by Arlington County for the privilege of doing business here. And it takes 37 pages of the county code to explain. The simple version it that the BPOL is a tax based on gross receipts, not on profits.

So, if you operate a business with high revenue, but relatively small margins, it can take a chunk out of your bottom line.

The county manager is estimating that BPOL will bring in $67.5 million to Arlington next year. As residential taxpayers stare down another substantial tax increase this year, we should certainly not be asked to pay even more.

But, if the County Board wanted to attract more business to fill empty space, they could phase out the BPOL over the next three to five years. They could “pay for” it by holding the overall rate of spending growth to inflation plus population growth.

If that is not enough, they could designate a portion of their closeout spending each year to make up the difference.

If the BPOL is not good for Amazon, it’s not good for any Arlington business.

Speaking of the County Board, Chairman Christian Dorsey formally announced his bid for re-election this past week. Dorsey’s campaign theme is “equity,” which is no surprise since it was the main buzzword in the speech he gave to kick off his year as chairman.

Dorsey’s old campaign website seems to be offline and his Facebook page (as of writing this column) has not been updated since he called for the resignation of Gov. Ralph Northam. So, there is really no substance available to back up his announcement.

It is hard to be against a guy who says he is for a word that means fairness, but it would be nice to get some specifics.

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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