HARPERS FERRY – The Harpers Ferry Town Council has authorized new measures to help modernize its tax system and crack down on tax evaders.
Enforcement of the Business and Occupations tax has proved problematic for the town because its enforcement mechanisms are based on since-repealed state statutes.
“Our ordinances are based on a repealed state statute that gave us authority as long as we were in compliance with the statute. It was repealed in 1989,” said Council Member Jerry Hutton.
Hutton said the town reached out to the state Municipal League for help, and it has provided a model ordinance that will be in line with updates to the code.
On Monday night, Hutton asked the council to approve funding for legal review of the proposed ordinance. In a unanimous vote, the council authorized up to four billable hours for a lawyer to review the document.
“We wanted to make sure that we had an ordinance beyond legal challenge,” Hutton said.
The council also unanimously authorized Mayor Joe Anderson to enter into an agreement with state Department of Revenue, which will allow the town to access income statement provided to the state.
“If there is a business in the municipality that is not paying their B & O tax, or if the municipality thinks the business is possibly underreporting … the state of West Virginia gives authority to municipalities to obtain income information from the state,” said Council Member Greg Vaughn.
“We would have the authority, through this reciprocal agreement, to obtain income statements from that particular business. The municipality would match that with what the business is claiming for their B & O taxes. If there is a shortfall, then it is incumbent on the business to make right,” Vaughn said. “The burden of proof in these particular agreements always lies upon the business.”