I support City Council enacting immediate changes to reduce the discriminatory tax burden on restaurants. I recognize that local restaurants are the backbone of our community, employing citizens from all walks of life, improving streetscapes, and adding to the attractiveness and vibrancy of the City. Restaurants should not be targeted, distinct from every other business, as a special source for City revenue.
Expanding affordable housing is a worthy goal, but there are ways to do so without new taxes – and there are ways to raise tax revenue that do not unduly burden a single industry. Further, the meals tax disproportionately hits low income families who spend a larger percentage of their budget on meals. It also leaves restaurateurs with less money to hire employees and grow their businesses.
As such, I urge City Council to immediately:
1. REPEAL THE RECENT 1% MEALS TAX INCREASE. This increase makes Alexandria the most expensive dining destination in the DMV region, with a combined meals and sales tax of 11%.
2. PROVIDE A 3% REBATE ON ALL MEALS TAX REVENUES COLLECTED BY RESTAURANTS AND PASSED THROUGH TO THE CITY OF ALEXANDRIA. Restaurants currently pay credit card fees in order to collect taxes for the City.
3. REDUCE THE PENALTY FOR LATE PAYMENT OF MEALS TAX TO THE CITY AND INTRODUCE A REASONABLE GRACE PERIOD BEFORE A PENALTY IS IMPOSED. Today, restaurants immediately pay an egregious 10% late penalty.
4. HOLD A PUBLIC HEARING BEFORE ANY TAX INCREASE IS CONSIDERED AND AGAIN AFTER THE ADD/DELETE PROCESS (PRIOR TO ADOPTING ANY BUDGET OR ORDINANCE). The current process provides inadequate notice to affected parties and no clear means for recourse.
By making these changes, you will send a signal that Alexandria is a place where new businesses should locate, existing businesses should grow, and diners should visit.