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Arlington County is one of only two localities in the Commonwealth of Virginia (the other being the City of Falls Church) where the Real Estate Tax Relief for the Elderly and Disabled is administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS). Why is this so?
Well, in the 1980s, the program was moved from the Arlington Commissioner of Revenue’s Office to DHS. I won’t go into the reasons why this happened, because I don’t know the details. I strongly believe, however, that this tax program should be administered by a tax office. The County Board can make this happen.
Here are some reasons why the program should be returned to the Office of the Commissioner of Revenue.
1. Customer service! Currently, taxpayers visit the Treasurer’s office seeking tax relief. Instead of a “one stop service”, the Treasurer must refer them to 2100 Washington Blvd, more than a mile away.
2. Code of Virginia §58.1-3213 establishes the Commissioner of Revenue as the primary recipient of these applications. Therefore, it is a tax program rather than a public assistance program.
3. DHS operates the program as a “public assistance” program, hence its inclusion under “Public Assistance” in section G – Human Services, Economic Independence Services in the County Manager’s Proposed Budget. Most senior citizens and disabled individuals with income levels at or near the upper qualifying limit are not in need of public assistance. However, they should claim this tax benefit to which they are entitled.
4. Nearly all employees of my office are experts at analyzing federal and state income tax information and financial documents in a confidential manner, as they perform this fiduciary function on a daily basis. The application process for this program relies heavily on understanding and interpreting this type of information. If problems were to arise with certain types of financial documents, my staff is already trained and prepared to determine accurate solutions. Moreover, there will be no need for additional staff.
5. Applicants who need to do business with my office can be assured that their financial information is handled in a professional and confidential manner, pursuant to Code of Virginia §58.1-3.
6. My office has access to numerous tax related databases in the Commonwealth, such as the Virginia Department of Taxation and the Department of Motor Vehicles, to verify information as needed.
7. There is a strong cooperation between my office and the Treasurer’s Office. As a result, the operation of the program will be streamlined and greatly enhanced, primarily by accurate and efficient data management.
8. My office will establish a cooperative environment with DHS so that customers who may qualify for DHS programs would be referred appropriately. More importantly, DHS staff will be freed up to perform DHS related services, while taxpayer services will be provided by my office.
9. Because the program is a state mandated function of the Office of the Commissioner of Revenue, it is eligible for reimbursement by the State Compensation Board, pursuant to Code of Virginia §15.2-1636.8. Currently, the County does not receive any reimbursement from the State Compensation Board for managing this program.
Arlington Commissioner of Revenue