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Wednesday, February 1, 2023
ArlingtonEffort to give online publishers tax break fails in Richmond

Effort to give online publishers tax break fails in Richmond

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Print-media companies long have been exempt from some taxation in Virginia. And at least for another year, their online-only competitors will not get the same breaks.

Legislation patroned by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) to extend exemptions from business, professional and occupational license (BPOL) fees to online-only news sites died in a subcommittee of the House Committee on Finance.

All of Virginia’s cities, about half of its counties and many towns levy a BPOL tax, which can take the form of license fees and/or a percentage of gross receipts. Whether owing to a reverence for the First Amendment or reflecting the lobbying power of Virginia’s once-powerful news organizations, localities for decades have been prohibited by the General Assembly from collecting those fees from those who publish newspapers, newsletters and magazines.

Hope’s proposal would have extended that exemption to online-only publishers with at least one full-time newsroom employee.

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Legislation, particularly bills on new topics that don’t have a groundswell of public backing, tend to die ignominiously in the finance committees of Virginia’s legislature. Hope’s measure (HB1920) was no different; it was “laid on the table” (a polite way of saying killed) for the 2023 session on an 8-0 vote.

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