Property tax has deep roots and a long history in Virginia


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – While most Virginians collect personal property tax each year as a levy on their vehicle, the tax has been in place for centuries in one form or another, highlighting historical and cultural changes in the Commonwealth over the years.

According to research from the Library of Virginia, the personal property tax began in 1782. A key expansion of the tax occurred in 1815 to include furniture (by type of wood), curtains, silverware, mirrors, prints, oil portraits, oil and coolers. The additional revenue would help offset expenses incurred during the War of 1812.

Slaves were taxable to their owners until 1866 after the end of the Civil War. By the mid-19th century, tax records also included horses, mules, cattle, sheep, carriages, and stagecoaches, as well as household and personal items such as watches, clocks, pianos, and pianos. harps, and jewelry, among others.

In its current form, Virginians get what’s called “car tax relief,” a form of tax reduction on the first $20,000 of their vehicle. The discount percentage varies by municipality.

In 2004, the General Assembly voted to cap this relief at a statewide total of $950 million.

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