Taxing: City residents get hit first


Two things you can be certain of: a year without tax increases is like hell freezing over, and no matter how much you mangle your similes, death only diverts the tax bill to your heirs.

The government's dig into citizens' pockets usually starts July 1. This year, Virginians get a slight reprieve until September 1, thanks to the extended special session of the General Assembly.

But the City of Charlottesville had its tax act together, so citizens started paying more July 1 for:

 - Trash stickers. Didn't they just go up last year? Yup, and now it costs another 5 cents for a 13-gallon sticker ($1.05) and 10 cents for a 32-gallon bag ($2.10).

- Smokes. The city bumps its cigarette tax from 12 cents to 25 cents. Don't forget that the state also is upping the price from 2.5 cents, the nation's lowest, to 20 cents a pack September 1, and to 30 cents a pack July 1, 2005.

- False security-system alarms. Mainly from businesses, the cost of a faulty alarm system calling the cops goes from $50 to $100.

- E-911. One of those extra charges on your phone bill that you're never quite sure what the hell it's for, but they add up to a sizable chunk of the bill. The E-911 fee goes from $1.04 to $1.50 per access line.

- Large item pickup. Once free twice a year, now it'll cost you $25 to get that old refrigerator or ratty sofa hauled away.

The Commonwealth of Virginia requests the pleasure of you paying more September 1 for:

 - Retail. The sales tax goes up 1/2 cent, from 4.5 percent to 5 percent. (That includes the 1 percent that the locality keeps.)

- Cigarettes. See above.

- Property transfers. As if the cost of buying a house isn't high enough, tack on an increased recording fee that goes from 15 cents to 25 cents per $100. And if you have a mortgage, you'll get hit again to record the deed of trust. Oh, and expect Albemarle and Charlottesville to bump their recordation fees, too, to one third of what the state charges. Sellers get to pay more, too: $1 per $1,000.

- Vital records: Birth, death, marriage, divorce– all these just got more expensive in Virginia by an extra two bucks, if you want a copy, and that started July 1.

- Seniors lose the $12,000 deduction they were getting regardless of income. Starting on their 2004 taxes, they have to pass a means test.

But wait, there are savings, too

 - The state's four percent food tax slowly goes away– or at least, goes down– half a percentage point at a time, starting July 1, 2005, 2006, and 2007.

- Income tax personal exemption goes up a whopping $100, from $800 to $900 starting in 2006– although with increased revenues, taxpayers may see that tax break a bit earlier– January 1, 2005.

- Married individuals get a break, too. Their standard deduction goes $5,000 to $6,000 January 1, 2005.