West Virginia: Exploring and Simplifying Home Rule
- Jul 8, 2013 | Gail Cole
West Virginia is exploring the idea of municipal home rule. Five years ago, the state began a home rule pilot program in four communities: Bridgeport, Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling. Response has been positive, and the state is expanding the program to fourteen additional cities. Many other communities have expressed interest in it.
Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie has been pleased with the experiment. He notes that home rule "moves the ability to govern from the Legislature to the local community, which ultimately empowers local communities to do what's best for them." Historically, local governments in W.V. have not had the power to tax. Localities involved in the Home Rule pilot program, however, do have the authority to impose local sales and service or use tax.
Yet West Virginia is a full member of Streamlined Sales Tax, and as such, it strives to "simplify and modernize sales and use tax administration in order to substantially reduce the burden of tax compliance." States interested in simplifying sales and use tax administration are moving towards a more centralized tax administration, not a more decentralized one. Even Colorado, with its notoriously complicated home rule tax system, is advancing toward simplification.
WV Administers Local Taxes
It turns out that, as West Virginia inches towards home rule, it is also simplifying and modernizing sales and use tax administration. The recent passage of H.B. 105 authorizes the State Tax Department "to administer, enforce and collect any local sales and service or use tax." It also allows the Tax Department to "set a fee" for those administrative duties, to cover administrative costs. Details are still being worked out.
The West Virginia State Department administers (or will administer) the following local sales and use taxes:
- Williamstown, 1%, effective October 1, 2011;
- Huntington, 1%, effective January 1, 2012;
- Rupert, 1%, effective April 1, 2013;
- Charleston, 0.5%, effective October 1, 2013; and
- Quinwood, 1%, effective October 1, 2013.
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