State News

Select Board candidate questions personal property tax as an on-your-honor town-by-town revenue source

By Curt Peterson

When Select Board candidate Andrew Gieda confronted current board members about Killington’s personal property tax at a recent public meeting, it garnered attention.

Gieda claimed a large percentage of eligible Killington businesses were not filing their “personal property tax” reports, and that the self-reporting process encouraged filers to minimize their obligation. He challenged the selectmen to do something about “the large amount of revenue” the town is missing due to lack of compliance and enforcement.

There is a Vermont personal property tax that applies to business tangible assets. According to Hartland Board of Listers Chair Stacy Bradley, the tax had existeded in all Vermont towns until the late 1980s, when voters in each town were allowed to choose whether or not their town would impose the tax.

Area towns that chose to continue to adopt the personal property tax include Bridgewater, Killington, Pittsford, Reading, Rutland City and Rutland Town. Hartland and Woodstock do not employ the tax. The participating towns collect the business personal property tax, and keep the revenues.

Gieda feels inequity results from selective self-reporting and lax collection efforts, and individual towns not participating tempt businesses to register their business nearby, instead of in Killington, even if they park their equipment in town.

Larger cities, such as Burlington, derive significant revenue from the business personal property tax.

Killington’s business personal property tax revenues are not to be sneezed at — Gieda told the Mountain Times 80 businesses do report and pay their business personal property taxes. AT&T, for example, paid $617,000, he said. He has been paying the tax on his equipment since 2007.

There are two categories of assets subject to the business personal property tax: machinery and equipment, and inventory. Of the listed participating towns, only Rutland Town taxes inventory, which is exempted in the other towns.

As Gieda pointed out, the tax is calculated by the taxpayer using state-designed forms for registering as an eligible business, evaluating depreciated taxable value, and listing assets with the calculated tax. The reported business property value is taxed at the current municipal rate. By April 20 this year, businesses must have filed their FY2025 tax forms.

Burlington’s website introduction to the tax process recognizes information provided by the taxpayer is “proprietary,”  and guarantees the public won’t have access to it.

It’s complicated. The taxable value formula described in the Burlington intro is really difficult to parse. The Killington listers’ page on the town website doesn’t even mention business personal tax, although it is the listers who are responsible for mailing the forms to all businesses early in the year. The assets are taxed at their depreciated assessed value.

Gieda asked why the Select Board isn’t acting to enforce collection of the business personal property tax, claiming the town was losing between $30,000 and $100,000 revenue by not doing so.

Selectman Jim Haff, against whom Gieda is running for the Select Board seat, said tax collection isn’t a responsibility of the Select Board, and that talking to the town treasurer, town manager and listers would make more sense.

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