Virginia exempts gun safes from sales tax

Virginia exempts gun safes from sales tax

Reducing gun violence has been a priority for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam since he took office in 2018. Last year, he hosted roundtables to discuss gun violence and even convened a special session of the Virginia General Assembly to address the issue. He called on lawmakers to pass a package of eight bills that would ban dangerous weapons, limit handgun purchases, require background checks, and more. When the special session concluded with no action, he called it “shameful and disappointing.”

Northam was reinvigorated to try again after Democrats won control of the House and Senate in November 2019. He concluded his January 2020 State of the Commonwealth Address with a plea to “have an honest conversation based on fact, not fear,” assuring that “this common-sense legislation does not violate the Second Amendment.”

This time around, he won: The General Assembly approved seven out of his eight proposed gun violence prevention measures. Included among them is Senate Bill 268, which provides a sales and use tax exemption for gun safes with a selling price of $1,500 or less, starting July 1, 2020.

To qualify for the exemption, the gun safe must meet the price requirement and be:

  • Commercially available
  • Designed for the storage of a firearm or ammunition for use in a firearm
  • Secured with a digital or dial combination locking mechanism or biometric locking mechanism
  • Glass-faced cabinets don’t qualify for the exemption.

When calculating the sales price, coupons, discounts, or other credit offered by the vendor may reduce the final sales price. In other words, a gun safe with an original price of $1,550 that’s on sale for $1,495 would qualify for the exemption.

Other gun control measures signed into law by Gov. Northam include:

  • HB 9: Requiring the reporting of lost or stolen firearms
  • HB 264: Regarding demonstration of competence for concealed handgun permits
  • HB 421: Regarding the control of firearms by localities
  • HB 674: Regarding removal of firearms from persons posing substantial risk
  • SB 543: Requiring mandatory background checks

Which states exempt gun safes?

Only a handful of states currently exempt gun safes from sales tax: Connecticut, MassachusettsNew Jersey, and Washington.

A proposed exemption for firearm safe storage products failed to gain traction in Maryland last year. A similar measure in West Virginia didn’t make it out of committee before the 2020 legislative session ended last Saturday.

On the other end of the spectrum, both Louisiana and Mississippi provide partial or full sales tax exemptions for ammunition, guns, and a variety of hunting products during their annual Second Amendment sales tax holidays. Gun safes are not eligible for the temporary exemption during the  Mississippi sales tax holiday.

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